MUSCATINE — Birdsley’s Diner is all about family, but not just their own. Owners Robin Doss and daughter Tricia Birdsley want to serve the community like family and believe the diner’s new location will help them better do that.
“I think we’re going to meet a lot of new people,” Birdsley said. She also expects to see many familiar faces. “I see them all drive by every day,” she said.
Doss and Birdsley are excited to open the restaurant Monday after being closed for a month for the move. Its new location in the Pearl Building in the former Tantra Thai Bistro is twice the size of the diner’s previous location on Isett Avenue. Doss and Birdsley hope to serve more customers in the larger space, but the move downtown was about more than that.
“I like the people,” Doss said. “I know some of the people that have places here and they’re very well – they’re nice and they’ve been here awhile, too – good, established businesses.”
Bringing the diner downtown will also help round out the dining options available and bring business from the residents living in the condominiums in the building.
As developer and resident of the Pearl Building, Tom Meeker thinks the restaurant will fill a need in the downtown area among the specialty locations. He also thinks the experience the staff brings will benefit the business community by bringing people and adding investment to the area.
“It’s for everybody,” Meeker said of the diner.
Tricia Birdsley said their diner is different than other diners in town because they know what customers like. After over 50 years of combined experience in the restaurant business between her and her mother, she said while other restaurants in town may have certain priorities, good food and good customer service are theirs.
When Meeker was doing interviews prior to bringing the diner into the building, he said 19 out of the 20 people gave glowing reviews.
“There’s always got to be one negative,” Birdsley said, to which Doss replied that it gives the crew something to keep striving for.
The past year brought many lessons about running a business. Doss said planning ahead for taxes was one. Another, Birdsley said, was when she learned how to cook really well nearly six months ago.
“Treat your customers more like family and friends than customers,” said Doss’ brother and employee Dan Birdsley of what he learned.
He said staff have gotten to know customers and would care for them by sending home soup for a sick family member at no charge, walking elderly customers to their cars or just sitting and talking with folks. The diner also hosts a free Christmas meal for Muscatine residents in need.
“We just respect our customers more I think than anybody else,” Dan Birdsley said.
That customer service quality Doss and Dan Birdsley believe they got from their father, Don Birdsley, who was a longtime baseball coach and the diner’s namesake. The space highlights that history through plaques and sports jerseys hanging on the walls -- features that also celebrate family.
Meeker said a common misperception about the area near the Pearl Building is that there isn’t enough available parking. He said there is plenty of parking at the riverfront and he is working with the Merrill Hotel and Conference Center so that the basement level of the parking ramp may also be available to Birdsley’s customers and other patrons of the Pearl Building. The handicapped parking spaces in the parking lot behind the building are also available to diner customers, which Meeker said are shared with the hotel. Birdsley said parking won’t be an issue because the diner will offer a kind of valet service for customers.
“I just want everyone to be happy,” she said.
The diner will operate from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday and serve the all-American breakfast, lunch and dinner menu complete with its popular tenderloin, meatloaf and “the Catcher” – a baked potato topped with chili, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion and taco chips.
“I hope they do so good that they show all these people that are negative that they can do it,” Meeker said.