Kat Merry

There’s Magic Behind the Counter at Yankee Clipper Diner

The Yankee Clipper Diner has been a bustling landmark on Main Street since 2003. Hungry locals and even other restaurant owners in town all agree that the offerings at YCD are some of the best in Beacon- breakfast, lunch and dinner!

But it’s not just the mouth watering pancakes, creative wraps, to-die-for desserts, and colorful cocktails (yes, they serve alcohol!) that keep people coming back. It’s the team behind the counter- or in this case, the family.

Owned and operated by sisters and (Tonia and Katina) and their husbands (Petros Petsas and Nikos Pertesis), these power couples took the basic American diner concept and elevated it with an eye catching modern interior that still seems to ooze with homegrown coziness. Not to mention, the place is spotless from floor to ceiling.

The true distinction though? Their obvious attention to hospitality and a staff that makes you feel instantly at home, from the moment you walk through the door.

Tonia: I always say, we don’t refer to you as a customer. When you come to Yankee Clipper, you are our guest and we treat you like one.

We can’t help but think of the theme song to the 90s show, Cheers- ‘where everybody knows your name’- and as Tonia explained to us, the staff at Yankee Clipper often knows your order too!

Tonia: We have tons of regulars that come in all the time and order the same thing. I don’t know about you, but if I was going through the Starbucks drive through every morning getting the same thing, I’d want that person to remember me and my order!

Tonia says this as she points to a customer, or guest as Tonia insists, enjoying a plate of food and a drink at the diner bar counter.

Tonia: He comes in here a couple times a week...He’ll come in and we will get his order going right away. We’ll catch up and chat with him about what's going on in town. [during the pandemic] we really missed being that friendly face for people.

It’s worth noting that during this interview, Tonia and her husband Petros had one eye on us and one eye on the busy diner floor. Because even though the Petsas and the Pertesis are owners of the diner, they also all have shifts on the work schedule.

Tonia: Everyone works, all of us. We of course stagger our schedules and our weekends switch off...Our kids work here too!

**Tonia is referring to her two daughters, Nikoletta and Maria and Katina’s kids Matthew and Maria.

Tonia: When Katina and I were their (the kids) age, well actually younger, we were working in a diner too. That’s how this whole thing started. We both grew up in the diner industry.

Tonia and Katina are originally from a small island in Greece and when they came to America, at a very young age, they were introduced to the diner business through their father who worked as a cook at a diner in the Hudson Valley area.

The sisters worked in diners through their young and formative years, then later - by chance and fate - met their husbands, also from Greece (crazy, we know!) through the network they developed in the diner biz.

Tonia: I actually served Petros (Tonia’s husband) at the diner I worked at, the first time I met him. [A family friend] told him to come by the diner I worked at. He came in and I served him a few cups of coffee

*so cute* Yes, we saw Tonia blushing as she continued...

Tonia: After that he’d come see me all the time and when my shift would end, we would sit in a booth and chat over hamburgers and french fries. He'd dip his in mayo. [she rolls her eyes lovingly at this]

* Shoutout to Petros, the MSB team loves a good french fry mayo-dip!

Tonia and Katina’s experience growing up in the diner biz was truly invaluable to building their own business successfully with their hubbies.

In addition to navigating the challenges that come with running a restaurant, they pay close attention to improvements and updates to both the look and the offerings of the diner. To the families, it’s important to stay current and always stay true to that classic diner feel we all know and love.

And if running a business and raising a family sounds like a lot of work, we’ll, that’s because it is! But it is obvious that both couples never let their work interfere with raising their children - in fact, the integrity and devotion they applied to the diner, only added value to their roles as parents and rubbed off on their children in the best ways.

The sisters explained that raising their kids in this industry added the bonus of instilling important lessons about hard work.

I’ve learned the value of hard work and so even more lessons that so many of my friends didn’t - and still haven’t- learned as young adults!” Says Katina’s daughter, Eidini.

Tonia: Growing up working in this industry, I was always taught the value of a dollar. I always had a job, even when all my friends didn’t understand it or they made fun of me for missing out on social things! But I learned how to save money and plan for a future. This is something I know my kids have learned by working here with us.

Katina agrees with this wholeheartedly and reflects on the first time she introduced her son Matthew to the value and concept of hard work- by, of course, bringing him to the diner!

Katina: I think he was only seven years old at the time and he kept saying he wanted to buy a new video game. I told him, he would have to work to earn the money to buy it and I brought him to the diner to do that. He basically just sat in a booth the whole time and at the end of the shift he asked, can I have the money for the video game now? I explained to him that he needs to do actually work - wash some tables, help out in the back- to earn the money for his game! He was so young, i know, but from that day on, it clicked. He [and all the kids] know the value of hard work. If they want something, they work hard for it. I think many kids don’t learn that lesson early on.

And, of course, their children (now young adults!), are certainly not bound to the diner full-time. Each of the Petsas and Pertesis kids also have their own blossoming lives and ambitions outside of the diner.

Tonia: They all have their own passions and own things going on outside of this. We never ever force them to work, but anytime we need an extra hand, they’re happy to pop in. We just hope the kids are recognized [in this article] for their hard work here over the years, especially during the pandemic!

And it’s not just the family taking orders and delivering the drool-worthy concoctions with a smile- They also have a team of ‘not blood related’ staff that share the same enthusiasm for the family and the establishment.

Sarah, who started working at the diner only a month ago, says that she instantly felt welcomed and comfortable when she joined the team.

Sarah: They treat me so well here and everyone is so nice. I love coming to work and it’s just great to be in a friendly environment all the time. I felt like I belonged right away.

Even with staff morale high and full tables, the Petsas and Pertesis families know that the diner can’t function on hard work and premium hospitality alone. The team also pours a lot of effort and time into curating and constantly updating a special (anything-but-boring) menu too!

Tonia: Of course, we have the diner classics, but we pay attention to what customers want and what is ‘trending,’ too. For example, a couple years ago, wraps and paninis became more popular than sandwiches- everyone wants wraps and paninis now! So, we extended our menu to have those categories.

We love the Tex-Mex wrap (extra chipotle sauce please!) and their Cowboy Panini is like a melty classic Reuben with a massive flavor punch from the horseradish mayo. (All homemade, of course!)

The team also caters to their guests’ dietary restrictions- making sure anyone who comes in, has options to customize their order.

Tonia: We noticed many people are gluten free right now, so we offer gluten free wraps and bread...we added a whole section to the menu dedicated to gluten free meals.

Talk about a dedication to their customers (guests!) tastebuds!

The team has certainly turned up the volume on their establishment and after surviving the COVID shutdowns, they’re just ecstatic to be back open doing what they love, serving the people of Beacon.

Tonia: When we finally were able to open again, we were doing take out only and oh my goodness, it was insane! [the amount of orders they got] We had people calling to place orders and would also want to chat with us, saying things like, “wow I’m so glad you’re back open.” and “I’ve missed you guys so much.” and “when can we come eat there again?’ It was so great to hear that response... very overwhelming.

The families say that the support on the local level was so appreciated. When they finally opened for indoor dining, the biggest excitement was seeing the faces of their customers again.

Tonia: It was strange to not be able to interact with our guests, we missed them and it was nice to hear that they really missed us too. I think they really depend on us - just as we depend on them! People are slowly feeling more comfortable dining in and it’s been nice catching up with those we haven’t seen- some in over a year!

Because the families are so busy running the joint and working staggered hours, it is very rare to catch the whole clan in the same room together. But we were lucky enough to steal a moment with all of them for this article!

The family huddled around at the diner counter as the setting sun sent a golden hue across the busy tables, filled with happy guests. The Petsas & Pertesis families bellowed with laughter as they caught up with one another in the space they built. Every now and then, a sound byte of their beautiful Greek language would break through the chatter of dining guests around them.

Tonia: Have you seen the movie My Big Fat Greek wedding?

Tonia joked as she lovingly looked at their big family.

Tonia: I guess we’re kind of like that!

Before we parted ways, we posed the whole clan in a line in front of the diner on Main Street for a photo.

 But just before the camera flashed, a symphony of honks and hollers rose from passing cars. The Yankee Clipper family smiled and exchanged friendly waves at the cars, explaining that those honks were coming from some of their customers- customers who, while stopped at a red light, took an opportunity to wave and say hello.

 It’s difficult to choose a word to describe the magic and love behind the doors of YCD, but we think the word family comes pretty close!

Visit Yankee Clipper Diner on Main Street: 397 Main Street, Beacon NY 12508

Check out their menu here

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