If a road trip south of Denver on U.S. Highway 285 has always meant a stop at the Coney Island Boardwalk in Bailey, better have a back-up plan – the vintage diner shaped like a giant hot dog is closed and may be headed for yet another location by the time you read this.
The 1966-designed landmark owned by Ron Aigner closed as of mid-January and is for sale for $499,000. The new owner will have to move it elsewhere because the acre of land it’s sitting on will be sold separately.
A run-in last year with the Colorado Department of Transportation over a property line-related dispute resulted in the arrival of Park County sheriff’s deputies who claimed Aigner resisted arrest. Aigner says the deputies jumped on him and broke his back.
The case against Aigner for misdemeanor harassment was vacated in December, but the businessman said he was left with a $15,000 legal bill, a ruined rep, and constant pain. Slow winter business didn’t help. Hence the decision to cut his losses, sell the building and land separately, and retire elsewhere.
The best news story I’ve found about it ran January 27, 2011, at the excellent regional news source The Flume (The Park County Republican & Fairplay Flume): www.theflume.com.
My thanks to Editor Tom Locke and Staff Writer Mike Potter for allowing me to borrow a photo of the Coney island Boardwalk diner for this blog – you can see it was taken at a more hopeful time, just before the place opened in Bailey.
The golden age of buildings-designed-to-look-like-something-else in the United States lasted approximately between the 1930s, when long-distance travel became more practical for the masses, and the mid-1950s when the boom in interstate highways bypassed a lot of those same roadside attractions.
So the Coney Island Boardwalk diner was a late-comer to the scene when it was originally built in 1966 on Colfax Avenue in Denver. The architect was Lloyd Williams. First owner Marcus Shannon hoped to open a chain of diners with this patented design of a 35-foot-long bun and 42-foot-long wiener, complete with relish and mustard, but the concept panned out by 1969.
The building was moved and reopened in 1970 in Aspen Park under new ownership, but up for sale again by 1999. Local efforts saved the old diner from destruction and got it landmark status. Aigner bought it, restored it, then moved it again when the land was sold. It reopened 17 miles away in Bailey on July 4, 2007.
The diner is listed for sale on Bonanza.com: http://www.bonanza.com/booths/3853/items/25033990 (Again, my thanks to Mike Potter for the link, as for some reason the usual site keyword search did not turn that up on my own.)
I was able to reach Ron Aigner recently and we had a lively chat about he calls, “My avatar, the giant hotdog!”
“So far, the best offer I’ve had for the diner would keep it in Bailey,” he says. “But it’s still early. I wouldn’t mind if it went to the original Coney Island in New York. I’m not staying here, regardless.”
Ron has plenty to say about why he bought the diner, which has to do with the cause he’s involved in — to bring about a new investigation of the 1999 Columbine High School tragedy. For more about that: http://columbinefamilyrequest.org/
I wish Ron and his family a terrific new life, wherever they wind up.
But let’s hope the Coney Island Boardwalk diner stays here in Colorado where it’s been called “the best example of roadside architecture in the state.”