Ellie's 50's Diner in Delray Beach closing after more than 3 decades

Owners cite overhead costs for shut down
Ellie's 50's Diner in Delray Beach
Posted at 4:26 PM, Jul 08, 2022

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. — A nostalgic restaurant in Delray Beach is closing shop Sunday after 32 years of service.

The owner of Ellie's 50's Diner said the restaurant is a victim of the times: inflation, labor costs and supply-chain issues.

With its iconic pink 1957 Chevrolet and neon sign, the diner has been a hotspot for residents and visitors alike.

"[It's] the best place to go in Delray Beach," one customer said Friday. "It's a landmark, and I know people are going to miss this place."

For more than three decades, the diner of Federal Highway has taken customers through a time machine. From its rock 'n' roll music to poodle skirts, you'll get lost in the 1950s.

"We're gonna really miss our customers," owner Bob Smela said.

Bob and Ellie Smela have been the longtime owners of the restaurant.

They have two children, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild, but it's now time for them to retire.

"It's really breaking my heart that we are doing this," Bob Smela said. "I'm up in age right now, and there's no way that we can continue."

He said the overhead costs to keep the restaurant going are just too high. The same food costs that are impacting consumers at the grocery store are hurting mom-and-pop businesses.

Bob and Ellie Smela, owners of Ellie's 50's diner in Delray Beach
Bob and Ellie Smela discuss why they are closing their iconic diner in Delray Beach after more than three decades.

"My produce bill used to be $3,000 a month," Bob Smela said. "It's $4,500 a month now."

According to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, more than 3,000 restaurants in Palm Beach County have closed since the start of the pandemic.

"I mean it's just crazy, crazy. Everything is going sky-high," Bob Smela said. "We raised everything on the menu $1."

He and his wife have been selling everything — even their life-size statues of Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. Both were sold to rapper Vanilla Ice.

As customers take their seats for the last time at the diner, they said this landmark will live in their hearts forever.

"It's gonna be tough," Bob Smela said. "I'm almost ready to cry now."

Before they hang up their aprons this weekend, they are inviting the public to visit for one last call and celebration.