Joanne Santos has done the same thing every Sunday morning for nearly 20 years.
She wakes up at 4 a.m. in her Throggs Neck home, gets dressed, and hails a cab to take her to the other side of the Bronx, because she doesn’t like riding the bus while it is dark out. Once there she waits tables, almost always filled with regulars, at Short Stop Diner and Coffee Shop.
Santos works pretty much the whole day before finally taking that three-hour bus ride back home to Throggs Neck.
Earlier this month, though, tears welled up in Santos’ eyes as she realized her Sundays would never be the same again. That’s because the doors of Short Diner and Coffee Shop have closed forever.
“I’ve seen a lot of people come and go here,” Santos said, reflecting on her time at the diner. “I came in for a job, I was newly married … and now they’re shutting down.”
Short Stop first opened at 5977 Broadway, just under the last stop on the No. 1 subway line, more than 30 years ago.
Owned and operated by the Singh family, the diner has served countless college students, northwest Bronxites, visitors of Van Corltandt Park, passersby, Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees looking for a quick pick-me-up after a long shift, and once, comedy legend Jerry Seinfeld, who brought along a friend named Amy Schumer.
“I won’t miss getting up at four in the morning,” Santos said. “I’ll miss the people. A lot of characters come in here, a lot of them have nowhere else to go, and when you can come in have a cup of coffee, share the holidays with them; it’s worth it.”
Times have changed, though, for Short Stop. Several new delis and restaurants have opened along Broadway in recent years, and business has slowed down significantly for the coffee shop. The Singh children knew the restaurant needed to change.
Rahi and Petey Singh, whose parents opened the restaurant, said at one point they thought about selling the diner, but instead decided to close it and revamp it into something new.
“For the past couple of years, we have been only really been open for our customers, but we haven’t really been making anything,” Rahi Singh said. “It’s a neighborhood place, everyone knows each other.”
In fact, one family made the trek down from Buffalo because two girls who graduated from Manhattan College in 1999 wanted one last meal there.
What’s next for the Short Stop location? Petey Singh didn’t want to give away too much, but the goal is to bring a business not already present in the neighborhood.
“We sat down, we made an idea, we got investors, and we are going to go for it,” he said. “Tomorrow [March 21] we are going to start construction, so it’s going to be a brand-new Short Stop for everybody.”
The new business already has picked up a liquor license — something it never had before — and should be open in about two months.
On this last Sunday though, Short Stop was packed with longtime regulars and customers who simply wanted to say good-bye.
One of those customers was Michael Black, a Yonkers resident who joined the Van Cortlandt Track Club six years ago to lose some weight. In addition to weekly runs in Van Cortlandt Park, Black said he and his fellow runners stopped into Short Stop every Saturday afternoon for lunch.
Black came back on Sunday, though, to hand the owner a thank you card for all the meals he has had in their establishment.
“When they announced it in the track club — everybody knew within the day — we were all quite sad about it,” he said. “I am very sad, I know that probably by the end of the weekend I will cry, and I’m not afraid to admit that.”