This Philadelphia diner became a community beacon thanks to its owner

Emerald Pellot

Mary’s Luncheonette has served Philadelphia customers for 37 years. Owner Nancy O’Connor has run the diner for almost four decades. Known for its especially delicious pancakes, Mary’s regulars look forward to when the restaurant opens its doors at 4:30 a.m. every day.

“My mom opened up in 1977 and I came here to join her in 1981,” O’Connor told In The Know.

O’Connor still comes in every morning herself to prep the kitchen for the morning shift. Mary’s Luncheonette hasn’t changed its prices over the years and a plate of breakfast still only costs $6.

“I usually get this three days a week,” a customer, holding a plate of Mary’s “manhole-sized” pancakes, told In The Know. “They’re the best tasting pancakes around. That’s why everybody comes here, one of the reasons.”

O’Connor has had daughters, aunts, grandchildren and all sorts of various family members work at her business throughout the years. While most of them have moved onto other jobs, many of the customers have stayed.

“I met a lot of great people here, they were not only customers but they became great friends too,” O’Connor said. “That doesn’t happen in a lot of businesses. Everybody talks to everybody. It’s not a place you’d walk in and just sit there.”

Patrons love the community aspect of the diner because they don’t have to eat breakfast by themselves. But the community won’t last forever.

“I think when I retire, this will retire too. I don’t think Mary’s will be here anymore. It’s a hard business,” O’Connor told In The Know. “We’re still running, I’m not saying it’s going to happen right away. But pretty soon.”

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