Monday, March 30, 2009

Valentine Diners began their nearly forty-year career in Wichita, Kansas–an idea born of the Great Depression. They were constructed as eight-to-ten-seat diners that one or two people could operate. If you were good at it–if you served good food at a fair price and kept your customers happy–you could make a successful business of a Valentine. In an industry where nearly all major diner manufacturers were on the East Coast, the Kansas creation managed to ship its little pre-fabs all across the country. Valentines could be found along major highways to attract travelers, in industrial areas to attract workers, and in small towns where they might be one of the only (if not the only) restaurants available.

The Valentine Diner at the Museum has been restored and is located across from the Bus Exhibit. It’s name is the Flo-Inn Cafe, originally a “Kings-X” restaurant at the intersection of Emporia and Harry streets in Wichita. It was purchased from Jimmie King in either 1948 or 1950 by Florence Fortnoy, who operated it into the late 1980s.

In its last years as an active diner, it was only open for breakfast. Flo kept the restaurant open for the benefit of the regular morning customers who had become like family. A full basement was underneath the diner. Flo Fortnoy once remarked that when the Valentine company got into financial trouble, the salesmen were always trying to get her to buy a new model. The diner was restored by the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) Museum and is now on display there fulltime along with photographs and memorabilia from the original diner in use.


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