Tag Archives: Pal’s Diner

Cruising through DreamWheels!

2016 DreamWheels for newsWith Metro Cruise upon us and WKTV’s DreamWheels! set to film on Saturday, we take a look back on the stories of the people and cars who make the cruise such a large attraction. From the history surrounding the inception of Metro Cruise to the shops and talents it takes to rejuvenate the beauty of a classic car, and everything in between, our full coverage is below:


DreamWheels! comes to the red carpet

History of Metro Cruise

Art Cruise

Engine House No. 9

Steve’s Antique Auto Repair

Pal’s Diner

The ‘artwork’ of Dom Federico

Lowriders come to DreamWheels!

Metro Cruise Pin-Up Girls

SoCal Speed Shop comes to Metro Cruise

DreamWheels!: The man behind ZZ Tops’ famous hot rod comes to Metro Cruise

Pete Charpouris from So-Cal Speed Shop
Pete Chapouris from So-Cal Speed Shop

Why does Pete Chapouris, owner of one of the nation’s oldest specialty parts shop for hot rods, So-Cal Speed Shop, enjoy coming all the way from Southern California to Wyoming’s 28th Street Metro Cruise?


“Oh, that’s easy,” Chapouris said during a recent phone interview. “The people.”


“You can see lot of cars during one of these events and even in a lifetime, but it’s the people that make it interesting,” Chapouris said.


Chapouris returns to this year’s Metro Cruise set for Aug. 26 and 27. He will be at the Steve’s Antique Auto Repair display on the west end of Rogers Plaza for both days, signing free autographs and sharing experiences with car lovers.


Last year was Chapouris first time being at the Metro Cruise and he said there were a lot of high points such as visiting the area’s most popular bakery, Marge’s Donut Den.


“I also give a lot of kudos to the police department,” Chapouris said. “I have been to a lot of big events like this and [the officers] did a nice job of crowd control.” Especially, he noted, since 28th Street was packed with cars and people.


But for Chapouris and his wife Carol, the key to any event is the people who become an extended family to them. Steve Sturim, owner of Steve’s Antique Auto Repair which hosts Chapouris’s visit, said last year they were able to meet up with folks from Allendale’s Gas Axe Garage and others.


The car that started it all for Pete Chapouris, the 1934 coupe "The California Kid."
The car that started it all for Pete Chapouris, the 1934 coupe “The California Kid.”

“It’s just hanging out with about 20 to 30 people who see it the same way and have similar experiences in remodeling cars,” Strum said.


For those who do not follow or not in the world of custom hot rods and classic cars, So-Cal and Chapouris may be an unknown. However, few can forget the ZZ Tops famous hot rod, The Eliminator, which appeared on the 1993 album of the same name. The car was heavily influenced by Chapouris’s 1934 coupe that featured flames and would launch Chapouris’s career as it was not only featured on the cover of “Rod & Custom” magazine but was in the made-for-TV movie “The California Kid” starring Martin Sheen.


A leader in the hot rod scene for more than 50 years with such companies as Pete and Jake’s Hot Rod Parts and The Pete Chapouris Group (PC3g), Chapouris took over the So-Cal brand from its founder Alex Zdias in the late 1990s. For Chapouris, it was a no brainer in that So-Cal was a recognized brand that he could build upon with his own talents and background, he said. With a home base in Pomona, Calif., Chapouris and his team have accomplished a lot in the last 20-plus years, with retail outlets across the country and into Canada. In fact, Steve’s Antique Auto is a retail location with Sturim saying that working with Chapouris and So-Cal has given him a lot more than just street cred.


“Working with Pete has given me a lot of insight into a different aspect of this business,” Sturim said, adding its nice to be able to share stories and ideas with someone who has such a legacy in the business.


Chapouris has won numerous awards for his work, been inducted in to several hall of fames, and been apart of a number of television and radio shows including “Street Rod & Custom Radio,” but at the end of the day, it’s still all about the people and the cars.


“When I was asked to come back my wife and I really didn’t have to think much about it,” Chapouris said, adding that it was the West Michigan hospitality that made saying “yes” so easy.


Steve Sturim and Pete Chapouris will be part of the DreamWheels! show on Saturday, Aug. 27, which is from 6 – 7:30 p.m. at Rogers Plaza, 972 28th St. SW, and Pal’s Diner, 6503 28th St. SE. Strum and Chapouris will be at the Rogers Plaza location.

DreamWheels!: Restored local diner setting for this year’s ‘DreamWheels!’ show

Some people restore cars. Barry Brown and his wife Sam Choi-Brown took it one step further — they restored a diner.


“Diners fit with cars, cars fit with diners,” said Brown, the owner of Pal’s Diner, 6503 28th St SE, the home of this year’s “DreamWheels!” production. “They’re both restored items. They’re both unique to look at.”


Those classic American diners that dotted much of the United States landscape in the fifties and sixties actually were an extension of the wagon carts that would come to sell food to employees at businesses and manufacturing sites. Walter Scott is credited with creating the first diner in 1872, a horse-pulled wagon he would bring to employees at the Providence Journal in Rhode Island.


However, it wasn’t until the late 1930s that the diner began to be prefabricated into the familiar shape of a railroad car.


“People often think that the diners were old railway cars,” Brown said. “They weren’t. They were just designed to look that way.”


In fact, it was Roland Stickney who inspired by the streamlined trains, especially the Burlington Zephyr, who designed a diner in the shape of railroad car calling it the Sterling Streamliner. That railroad-style would carry on much through the history of the classic diner until about the 1970s when fast food restaurants began to dominate.


Like a mobile home, the original diner is narrow and elongated to allow for roadway transportation. In fact, it was by road in 1993 that the Browns transported Pal’s Diner from New Jersey to Grand Rapids. It was a 950-mile trip that included getting permission from four state road commissions to shut down major roadways and utilize the highways, not to mention a cost that was well into six figures.


And while the move was about 23 years ago, Brown can still remember it like it had happened yesterday.


“It took a lot of guts,” Brown said with a laugh. “But I will tell you that Sam and I were partners in this together. I sat down with her and we talked about it and we knew, that if we did this, we had to be partners.”


The couple could sense that if they did not move the now 62-year-old diner it would be lost like so many others. The land lease where the diner sat in New Jersey was up. Several others had looked at moving it, but passed. The Browns were the last ditch effort to save it with Pal’s former patrons and staff knowing it.


“It was a sad day when it left New Jersey, but it was good because it was going to be saved,” Brown said.


When the diner finally got here was when the real work started for the Browns because just like a classic car, to rebuild you have to start from the ground up taking everything down and putting it all back together the right way. The restoration and finding its current home took about three years.


Now open since 1996, Pal’s Diner succeeds in allowing each visitor to touch the past. Like traditional diner floor plans, the service counter dominates. Accented in pinks, seating is along the sides of the car with a Wall of Fame area — featuring pictures of celebrities such as One Direction who have visited the diner along with the diner’s history — just before the bathrooms. The main kitchen is through the swinging doors.


Brown takes pride in that they still make shakes the ol’ fashioned way — by hand — and the restaurant features classic fifties’ fare.


But the true success is just like the diner owners of the past, the Browns have made a lot of friends, sharing a lot of stories and memories with all who have walked through Pal’s doors.


“The people we’ve gotten to know, the people we’ve lost that have passed away they are like family,” Brown said. “My wife knows birthdays and everything with a lot people. That means a lot.”


Come to Pal’s Diner Saturday, Aug. 27 as WKTV shares more stories about the people like Brown who are dedicated to preserving a piece of American history by restoring classic cars. The show runs from 6 – 7:30 p.m.


Make sure to check out the “DreamWheels” show which will be broadcasting live Saturday, Aug. 27 from 6 – 7:30 p.m. at Pal’s Diner, 6503 28th St. SE, and Rogers Plaza, 972 28th St. SW. The show will air Saturday, Sept. 3, at 7 p.m. on WKTV Channel 25.