When I was a kid and school was canceled because of snow, my mother would take me into work with her. At the time, she worked at the county courthouse, in the heart of uptown Kingston. I remember parking in the lot behind the courthouse, dodging around mounds of shoveled snow, walking in through the side door, past the metal detector and the old county bar association photos, up the elevator and into my mom’s office, where I’d tap away on a typewriter all morning. (Oh yeah, foreshadowing much?) Around lunchtime, we’d head down the elevator, past the photos and the metal detector, out the door and down the bluestone sidewalk, already wet with melting snow, to Nekos, the luncheonette that everyone uptown went to, where a man I called “Eggy Eddie” stood at the grill and made me lunch as I spun around on the wobbling stools at the counter. Nekos had something for everyone — for the attorneys who worked uptown and came in every day for lunch, for the poor souls on jury duty down the street at the courthouse, and for annoying little children like myself who just wanted some candy or a homemade chocolate rabbit the size of my head. (Yes, “size of my head” is a completely accurate measurement. Leave it to the little Jewish girl to completely devour the milk chocolate Easter Bunny. Yum!)

So naturally my heart skipped a beat last week when I got a text from Tori telling me that Nekos Luncheonette was closing up shop after 109 years of cooking up lunch for half of uptown Kingston.

A few summers ago, hoping to save up money for Prague, I swung by Nekos and asked Eggy Eddie if he needed any extra help. The next week, I was pouring cups of coffee, serving up eggs and chatting up the regulars who sat at the counter. As the summer went on, I learned that Ed (apparently you can’t call your boss by your childhood nickname for him) had been trying for ages to sell Nekos, started by his grandfather and now a Wall Street institution. Owning Nekos meant that Ed never had a free moment. He couldn’t go on vacation, he couldn’t get the surgery he badly needed, he couldn’t ever sleep in. Ed lived and breathed that business, something that I really respect about him. I didn’t make a whole lot of money that summer, but I got something different out of the experience. Kingston isn’t a big town — some of the regular customers had known me since Joanna and I were those little kids spinning on the stools. When I turned to the sink to wash dishes or restock the creamers, I’d hear Ed telling a customer, “That’s Marsha and Jerry’s kid” and before you knew it, I’d have a stranger telling me some story about my parents or about myself as a toddler.  Nekos didn’t have flashy decor or an exciting, ever-changing menu, but it had that homey, familial feel. When you were there, you belonged. Day after day, year after year, Ed chatted up the folks eating at the counter as he worked the grill. I cleared plates and listened to him talk. He knew everyone and everything that went on in that town and found a way to relate to every person who walked through the front door. The food might have been cheaper and quicker at the diner down Washington Avenue, but at Nekos, everything had a personal touch.

The property is going to be turned into a sustainable diner, and the new owners, who currently own an organic butcher shop next door, have said that they hope to incorporate aspects of the luncheonette into the space.

I did some shopping uptown when I got back from India. In a rush to get back to my car before the meter expired, I didn’t poke my head into Nekos to say hello. I slowed down and glanced in the window. Ed stood at the grill wearing a white apron over a white t-shirt, head turned over his shoulder, talking to a couple sitting at the counter. His daughter poured coffee for someone seated a few stools down. It was a scene I’d seen hundreds of times over the years, something I never thought I wouldn’t see again.

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