Mr. G’s Diner to Be Reborn in Paterson


It’s always a happy occasion when a new diner opens in the Garden State. And it’s an even more joyful event when a landmark, vintage diner is brought back to life, extending the legacy of the Diner Capital of the World.

The rebirth of Mr. G’s Diner in Paterson — a modular, prefabricated, stainless-steel diner, factory built in New Jersey — will be a heartfelt homecoming for entrepreneurs Vaughn and Marnie McKoy and an expansion for local businessman Yaakoub Hijazi.

But first, a bit about the diner itself.

Mr. Russell G. Graddy Way road sign

The Diner’s History

The Paramount Dining Car Company of Haledon, which neighbors Paterson, built Mr. G’s diner in 1940. It was originally known as Pickering’s Grill. The exterior features a signature Paramount design: rounded glass brick corners.

Pickering’s Grill (Photo courtesy of Jim Baker, Austin, TX)

In 1954, the Gold brothers purchased the eatery and renamed it Marty and Phil’s Diner. It was sold again in 1968 and became known as the 10th Avenue Diner. Other ownership and name changes included the Egg Plate (not to be confused with the defunct Egg Platter Diner) and the Pancake and Smokehouse Grill.

Marty and Phil’s Diner (Photo courtesy of the Paterson Museum)
Egg Plate Diner (Photo from the collection of Michael Gabriele)

The Birth of Mr. G’s

Civil rights activist Russell “G” Graddy (1931-2021) purchased the eatery in 2008, recasting it as Mr. G’s Diner. Born in Wrightsville, GA, Graddy moved to Paterson as a teenager. According to local sources, Graddy became a prominent civil rights activist in Paterson and helped organize Dr. Martin Luther King’s visit to the Silk City in late March 1968. This was not long before Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis, TN, on April 4, 1968.

In 2019, two years before he passed away, Paterson designated a portion of 10th Avenue as “Mr. Russell G. Graddy Way” in honor of Graddy’s years of service to the city. He died in November 2021, at the age of 90.

Paterson: Home of Mr. G’s and Others

Paterson, like several other major urban centers in the Garden State, went through years of economic decline. The fallout forced many of the city’s industrial companies and diners to close.

In August 2023, Nicholas Diner, which operated on East Railway Avenue for more than 40 years, shuttered its business. At the time, it was Paterson’s lone remaining diner. Six years earlier, the Egg Platter, the beloved eatery on Crooks Avenue, built by Master Diners of Pequannock, said goodbye.

Exciting News

When the new Mr. G’s opens, Paterson once again will be home to a diner. Mr. G’s structure and location have a long history in Paterson, dating back over 80 years. It was an integral part of the city’s golden era. At the time, Paterson was a vast industrial hub with workers and families that supported numerous diners.

How it Happened

Yaakoub Hijazi, an entrepreneur who owns Star Laundry, located just a few blocks from Mr. G’s, purchased the diner and property with the intent of reopening the diner business. Hijazi’s facility, located at 421 East 16th Street, provides industrial laundry services for the hospitality business. Although he’s never owned an eatery, his love for the food business stems from his father, who owned over 20 restaurants and delicatessens in New York City.

Michael Powell, Paterson’s former economic development director, introduced Hijazi to Vaughn and Marnie McKoy and a partnership soon formed to re-establish Mr. G’s diner. “I buy real estate in Paterson to try and preserve landmarks,” Hijazi said. “I want to maintain the city’s authenticity — I feel that’s necessary.”

Given Vaughn’s Paterson roots and experience in the food and beverage industry, the pair worked together over several months to form a partnership and invest millions in private money to renovate and restore the diner. Construction began in September 2023 and is expected to be completed with a grand opening by the end of March 2024.

The reborn diner will retain the name Mr. G’s. The structure is undergoing major renovation work, inside and out.

A new roof has been added, and two new signs with LED lighting are slated to be delivered soon. A new kitchen with modern appliances is being installed. The diner’s original booths will be reupholstered, and a long counter with 18 round stools will be an interior focal point. There will be outdoor patio seating in an area behind the diner, with an existing barbecue pit to serve customers. They are currently consulting with a chef to develop a menu.

Construction work at the diner

The Vision for Mr. G’s

Along with their many capital investments, the new owners are dedicated to building a friendly, informal atmosphere to welcome guests, which will be an extension of their support for the Paterson community. The diner’s tagline will be “Where friends meet.”

“It’s our generation’s turn to continue the legacy of this diner,” said Vaughn. Marnie noted the diner will be a place for customers to share and create memories.

Original Mr. G’s Menu (Photo courtesy of the Paterson Museum)

About the McKoys

The McKoys operate national restaurant franchises via joint ventures at major airports. They have a great respect for Paterson’s history and will operate the food court at the historic Hinchliffe Stadium, which was built in 1932 and hosted Negro League baseball. The stadium reopened last May following an extensive renovation effort. Hinchliffe is now home of the NJ Jackals baseball team. (The Jackals are part of the East Division of the Frontier League, which is a partner league of Major League Baseball.)

Marnie and Vaughn McKoy

Vaughn grew up just a half block from the diner in a low-rise apartment complex and ate there as a lad. He attended Paterson Public School 21, just two blocks away, and then went on to graduate from Paterson Eastside High School.

Vaughn attended Rutgers University on a football scholarship and graduated from Rutgers Law School, Newark. He went on to get his MBA degree from New York University. Vaughn served on the Board of the New Jersey Community Development Corporation from 1994 to 2011.

Originally from Baltimore, Marnie also graduated from Rutgers University. She and Vaughn met in a class at Rutgers and have been married for 32 years. Marnie served as the Chief Executive Officer of Community Charter School of Paterson from 2009 to 2013. She earned a doctorate in education, leadership management, and policy from Seton Hall University.

Stay tuned for more news about the reopening, and Follow Mr. G’s Diner on Instagram and Facebook to keep up with the exciting renovations and opening announcements.

Author’s note: Special thanks to the Paterson Museum and diner historian Richard J.S. Gutman for providing historical information on the diner.