End of an era for south Norfolk American diner

A couple who have successfully run an American-style diner in the south Norfolk countryside for more than 25 years have decided to sell-up.

Nick and Margaret Mitchell, who own Nick's Diner in Deopham, hope to enjoy their retirement by moving permanently to their second home in France.

Friends thought they were 'barmy' to open the themed restaurant, thinking the quiet location and lack of passing trade would surely scupper their plans. But 27 years later the business has certainly proved its doubters wrong and continues to pull in loyal customers.

Mrs Mitchell said: 'Everyone thought we were barmy because it's in the middle of nowhere in a field, but we built it up. We're selling because I'm 68 in March and Nick is 66, and we just don't want to work any more.'

The pair moved to Deopham from London in 1979 with their children, who were aged two, three and five at the time.

Despite no experience in the trade, they took over the village's former pub The Victory Inn, which they ran for five-and-a-half years.

'When we moved into the Victory, Nick had done three or four sessions behind the bar and I had done one. It was a huge learning curve,' said Mrs Mitchell.

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When the strenuous hours of the pub became too much for the young family, the couple moved on and, within a year, began to convert the barn next door, in Church Road, which they had previously used as an a la carte restaurant.

They took inspiration from other American diners in the area, such as Zaks, and produced a menu based around the humble hamburger.

For the first 20 years, the pair ran the business themselves until their youngest son Ben came on board as their cook in 2005. His fiancee Becca joined in 2008. The couple are getting married in Greece in May and have decided not to continue the diner themselves.

Looking back over the last three decades, Mrs Mitchell said: 'I think it's probably the thing I'm most proud of. When we came up here, we took over a successful pub. The guy before us had done all the hard work. But we created Nick's Diner out of nothing. We thought of the idea, the menu, we built it up ourselves and it's still going 27 years later.'

She added: 'Buckets and buckets will be shed when I leave this place. It's been my home; it's where we brought up our kids. But it's got to be done.

'Obviously from our point of view it would be nice when we pay our visits to still go to Nick's Diner even if it's called something else. But it's something we have no control over.'

Nick's Diner will remain open until a new buyer is found. For more information, call 01953 851191 or visit www.nicksdiner.co.uk