North Apollo vintage stainless steel Yak Diner hits the road for move to new home

There’s more than meatloaf and homemade mashed potatoes keeping the old stainless steel Yak Diner in North Apollo going.

The manufactured 1955 O’Mahony diner is a movable prefab building, and it has to go.

The new diner owners will hook the Yak to a semitrailer Monday to move it just one-third of a mile down River Road. Its new home is next to another mid-20th century icon, Lackey’s Dairy Queen.

The Yak, formerly the Yakkitty Yak, has been a mainstay along River Road for almost three decades, attracting a customer base and workers so loyal the eatery stayed open during the covid-19 pandemic when other small restaurants faltered.

When the transfer of ownership closed the Yak’s doors Nov. 30, customers still came.

“We were tearing off the diner’s vestibule, and people were stopping by asking if they could come in and eat,” said Toni Taylor, 42, of Kiski Township, one of the new owners.

Taylor, who has worked with adults with disabilities for 21 years, and her mother, Arlene (Dolly) McCoy, of North Apollo, a longtime senior designer drafter at Siemens, acquired the diner recently to save and restore the popular eatery.

“We want to make it a destination diner with curb appeal,” Taylor said.

A decision had to be made. The diner’s lease was up, and the longtime owner wanted to retire, Taylor said.

“Instead of it getting bulldozed over, my mom and I thought we would give it a whirl,” she said.

The time is right and the opportunity is there, they said.

“My mum is getting ready to retire. I’m ready for a career change. And everybody is going to need to eat,” she said.

It’s no coincidence that the new owners are transplanting the diner next to Lackey’s Dairy Queen at 2130 River Road. McCoy’s parents, Paul and Bea Lackey, bought the land and opened the DQ in 1955. It still is operating and currently is owned by a former employee, Matt Spires.

Leases no longer will be an issue for the diner, Taylor said.

McCoy is a longtime fan of the diner, securing recognition for the Yak as a historical place by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 2019.

“There aren’t many of the 1950s roadside diners left. They are rare,” McCoy said.

The closest old-time stainless steel diner is in Blairsville, about 25 miles away, she said.

Restoration plans are underway for the diner, including installing a new roof and remodeling the kitchen and bathrooms, Taylor said.

“We got a lot of stainless steel to polish,” she said.

Structurally, the diner proved to be in good shape and sturdy when 16 wheels were temporarily attached for its upcoming short journey.

“Our movers lifted it, and it set down on the wheels perfectly,” Taylor said.

They plan to reopen as Dolly’s Diner in the spring. For more information, visit their Facebook page. Another generation will be pitching in, including Taylor’s daughters, Emma and Hannah .

Mary Ann Thomas is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Mary at 724-226-4691, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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