Schenectady County

Retiree to renovate and reopen restaurant

A longtime New York City transit worker has poured his retirement savings into the former Brandywine

A longtime New York City transit worker has poured his retirement savings into the former Brandywine Diner and plans to retire to Schenectady this summer.

Kuldip Ramdath, who immigrated from Trinidad a quarter-century ago, picked Schenectady for retirement because he has friends here, he said. He has many friends in the Guyanese community that has developed in Schenectady over the past decade.

So far, he’s spent $150,000 replacing the roof and renovating the four upstairs apartments at the diner at Brandywine and Duane avenues. The leaky roof left the interior in ruins, according to his friend and contractor, Parmeashwar Datt.

The apartments will be finished by the end of March. Once they’re rented, Ramdath plans to move up here and begin work on the diner itself, which will become a restaurant. He thinks the diner renovations will cost $75,000.

“We will try to save as much as we can to cut costs,” Datt said. “But the roof was so bad, water was leaking all the way down.”

Datt’s been working on the diner since December, when Ramdath bought it. The apartments are nearly done now — new windows have turned them into large, airy spaces, and new carpeting is on the way to cover the original hardwood floors.

The water damage is more apparent downstairs, where at least two of the diner tables have rotted and fallen apart. Parts of the ceiling have fallen in, and visitors can see into the diner from two holes in the outside walls.

“That restaurant’s a big task. That’s going to be a while,” Datt said.

But Ramdath said he’ll finish it by the fall as he enjoys his new, working vacation.

“I’ll have it by summer. By fall for sure,” he said.

The restaurant will offer both American and West Indian food, which Ramdath is billing as “a little of everything.”

But unlike the diner, it won’t be open all night. After all, Ramdath has to enjoy some of his retirement.

“It wouldn’t be all night — that’s too much,” Ramdath said.

Ironically, the longtime staple of late-night eating closed in 2006 because the owners wanted to retire.

Elena and Nick Sikamiotis said they could no longer work 80-hour weeks. They had been hard-pressed to keep the diner going after the health-related retirement of Elena’s brother, Peter Marmarinos Sr., who had managed the diner for 25 years. He retired in 2002 and died in 2007.

When the Sikamiotises decided to retire in 2006, they had not gone on a vacation in 26 years.

They had hoped, at first, to sell to someone who would reopen the diner with the same name, hours and signature food — including the highly caloric “disco fries” that Elena invented for a hungry homeless man.

Locals were disappointed to learn that the new restaurant would not return as the Brandywine Diner — but they were enthusiastic to hear that someone was breathing life into the decaying building.

Deputy Fire Chief Michael Gillespie, who checked out the building after workers turned on the heat and passers-by reported the steam as smoke, was hoping for another late-night diner.

“You’re probably too young to remember,” he said, “but that was THE place to hang out after working all night.”

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