The End of an Era: Al’s Diner Sold; New Owners to Rebrand
By Brandi Makuski
Gayle Guzman is saying goodbye to her longtime customers.
After running Al’s Diner — widely known as the city’s “best kept secret” — for 26 years, Guzman is selling the business. As of Dec. 23, the Al’s moniker will be replaced with a new name — Watchman’s Gone.
“Don’t make me cry,” said Guzman, as she glanced around the restaurant — a small diner with counter space and table seating for about 30 people, filled with local trinkets of farming, Green Bay Packer and Americana flavor and located just blocks from Iverson Park.
Guzman, who bought the business from Al Czech about 26 years ago, said she’s selling the diner to Andy and Samantha Pech, local residents who work at UWSP.
When asked why she was selling, Guzman said, “because I had the opportunity to,” adding she recently overcame a serious health issue, and she “started looking at things a lot differently.”
According to the Pech’s, the restaurant will have a slightly different atmosphere when it reopens in January. The couple came before the Stevens Point Public Protection Committee to apply for a liquor license on Dec. 12 — the application was approved — and say they plan to open for breakfast and lunch, and will offer wine with dinner.
“It’s going to remain entirely a restaurant…maybe shifting slightly from diner to café-ish because we want to offer dinner,” said Andy Pech on Monday. “We love Al’s Diner, but we’re looking into refreshing that menu a bit, but continuing to serve [existing] clientele and staying in the same price range.”
Pech said Watchman’s Gone will remain the unofficial “Green Circle Trail headquarters” and plans to offer picnic-style meals and ice cream for trail-goers and families headed to the park.
The restaurant will remain a family affair, Pech said. The couple’s son has autism, and they plan to move him into the apartment over the business, where he’ll eventually work.
“I love the place, and we love Gayle,” Pech said. “We don’t want to do anything to ruin [the atmosphere]; we’re just thinking about making it a little more vibrant and community friendly — but it’s never going to be one of those late-night hangout kind of thing[s].”
Guzman said she doesn’t regret selling the business.
“It’s getting hard to run smaller places like this,” she said. “But I am sad because I’ll miss the people.”
The restaurant is located at 3324 Jefferson Street.