A staple in the former Kmart building for 10 years, Mark C’s Diner is now operating in a new location in Oliver Plaza in North Union Township.
“I wanted to stay in that location but things couldn’t be worked out,’’ said owner Mark Caringola. “We closed there at the end of June. We opened here in August.’’
Mark C’s Diner is now located at Suite 110, Oliver Plaza, 6 Oliver Road, and open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.
On a recent breakfast shift, waitresses Katrina McCune, of Uniontown, and Betty Keill, of Connellsville, kept busy with customers at the counter, booths and tables.
“People know we’re here now,’’ said Caringola.
Alice Coleman, of Uniontown, took a seat at the counter with her husband. She’s been coming here since the move.
“I love it,’’ said Coleman. “My office is near here. The place opens at 6 a.m. and the prices are fantastic.’’
Seated nearby is Tom Patterson, of Smithfield, a regular from the former site.
“I bring my crew here all the time,’’ said Patterson. “I told Mark yesterday how good a job he’s doing, a wonderful job.’’
A lifelong resident of Connellsville, Caringola is a 1978 graduate of Geibel Catholic High School. He’s been in the restaurant business about 30 years, working for another company before opening his own place 14 years ago, first in Greensburg and then Uniontown.
A family venture, Caringola is joined at Mark C’s by his wife, Chris, and daughter Mindy. Staff includes longtime managers Kim Shultz of Connellsville and Athena McFadden of Uniontown.
While in transition to the new location, Caringola, a lifetime member of the New Haven Hose Company, learned of a family burned out of their home and donated food to them as well as the Salvation Army.
Before opening the new site, Caringola remodeled the kitchen and redecorated, using a sports theme for the main dining room. It includes a sectioned-off area called the Bullpen that features a work by artist Sheree Cockrell of Pittsburgh Pirate Bill Mazeroski hitting his famous ninth-inning home run that clinched the 1960s World Series at Forbes Field along with framed photos from that day. Another wall holds a mural of the Pirates’ current home at PNC Park.
Another dining room with a 1950s theme can be reserved for private parties during the week, but not weekends when Mark C’s is busier, especially after Sunday church services. This room includes vintage Pepsi lights, posters of James Dean, Elvis Presley and Audrey Hepburn and murals featuring mid-20th century diners.
Mark C’s can hold about 200 customers on both sides.
Caringola said his menu consists of American fare with Mark C’s making its own meat loaf, spaghetti sauce and soups.
“I’d probably say our stuffed pepper soup is one of the biggest sellers of our soups. We make our own burgers, too. We don’t buy frozen patties,’’ said Caringola, adding, “We do our own home fries, too. We still do them old school: boil potatoes, peel them, slice them.’’
Caringola offers daily specials, including a regular called Big John’s Breakfast, named after his father, who served with the 101st Airborne during World War II. The breakfast includes pancakes, eggs, home fries, sausage links, bacon, a half slice of ham and toast.
“That’s a lot of food,’’ said Caringola. “You better be hungry.’’
Caringola enjoys operating his own restaurant.
“I’ve been doing it for a lot of years. Sometimes it’s tough but I still like dealing with the people. I feel happy when they brag about our food and the service. I get a lot of compliments,’’ Caringola said. “I’ve been doing this for so long. This is what I know how to do.’’