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Upper West Side Residents Lament the Loss of Their Shining Star

By Leslie Albrecht | September 3, 2010 5:03pm

By Leslie Albrecht

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER WEST SIDE — Susan Rowe could get a scrambled egg sandwich with lettuce on rye for just $2 at Shining Star Restaurant — but what she came for was the love.

"This place is our 'Cheers,' where everybody knows your name," Rowe said.

"It's been a part of my life for years and years. It's irreplaceable."

On Tuesday, however, the 24-hour diner at Amsterdam and 79th street served its last stack of multigrain pancakes. Owner Maria Koirala then hosted a farewell party that night for its loyal customers.

"I put my heart here," said Koirala, an immigrant from Nepal. "It's like a community. I feel like one of my children is separating from me."

Shining Star was the kind of place where parents from P.S. 87 — around the corner from the diner — left their kids after school for an hour or two while they ran errands, knowing that they would be in good hands, Koirala said.

For older customers with no other family, the restaurant served as a support system. "We are their family. If they need to talk, they come here," Koirala said.

It was also a place where friendships grew. When one of the waiters got married, several customers attended the traditional Hindu wedding. When photographer Richard Nesbit needed to raise money for a trip to Romania to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, it was the diner's customers who chipped in, he said.

Nesbit's photos in turn were displayed throughout the eatery.

Koirala said her landlord refused to renew her lease because he's clearing the building to make way for a larger tenant.

Property owners Janoff & Olshan, Inc. declined to comment.

Upper West Side residents have been stopping by all week to give Koirala goodbye hugs.

"It's a very unusual place," said regular Ellen Woloshin, a singer and freelance writer who lives a few blocks from the Shining Star. "You can't tell just by looking. The sense of community we have here, I don't think we can ever match it."

Woloshin said the diner's friendly vibe worked well for freelancers, retirees and others who found themselves in need of human connection once in a while.

You could sit at a table for a couple of hours and work quietly, or table hop and chat with friends, Woloshin said.

"You can be with people and not be with them at the same time," Woloshin said. "It's important to have a place like that in life, and in New York."