How the Westfield community saved Vicki’s Diner


Photo Caroline Collins

Outdoor Seating at Vicki’s Diner

If you walk into Vicki’s Diner on a Sunday morning, the local restaurant is sure to be bustling with people of all ages: groups of teenagers sharing plates of waffles with whipped cream, families seated around the big front table by the window, children coloring with crayons in highchairs, and people sitting at the counter with cups of steaming coffee.

The diner is a whirl of frenzy: waitresses balancing plates, neighbors greeting one another and the chefs in the back flipping pancakes on the hot griddle. At the center of it all are Peter and Helen Rentoulis, the owners of Vicki’s.

The Rentoulis first opened Vicki’s in September 1999. For 21 years, Vicki’s has been a central part of the Westfield community. However, when the pandemic hit last March, Vicki’s, like many other small businesses, began to struggle during times of uncertainty. Peter said, “The pandemic has been very hard, it has been a total disaster.”

Loyal customer Patricia Steckler has been coming to Vicki’s with her family since the early days when Helen and Peter first bought the restaurant. When she saw Vicki’s struggling, Steckler started a GoFundme page to help raise money for the diner to stay open. The initial goal of $25,000 was quickly achieved, and hundreds of people in the community were willing to donate. 

Steckler said that the Rentoulis’ sacrificed themselves for Vicki’s. “They have emptied out their own pockets to keep Vicki’s afloat, and true to character, they haven’t fired anyone. They have kept on their entire wait staff and their cooks. They have taken care of everything, but themselves. They depleted all of their personal savings, so I’m hoping that [the money] will keep Vicki’s going and allow the Rentoulis to manage their own personal expenses too. ” 

Peter said he will forever be grateful for the members of the community who have kept Vicki’s alive, and he will remember their generosity for the rest of his life. “They are the greatest people in the world. I have so much gratitude for them, and that comes from the heart.”

Peter and Helen’s charisma and care for everyone in the community is shown in their work. Steckler said, “I’ve always had this pleasure of watching how warmly Helen, greets everybody, young, old, people who are alone, people who are in groups, it doesn’t matter. You don’t find that in communities anymore.”

Vicki’s is more than a diner, they are a family. “I have been going to Vicki’s since as long as I can remember and all the staff knows my family and [me] by name,” said WHS senior Mattie Waller.

Steckler explained why so many people love Vicki’s, noting “It’s such an oasis at this time of high stress, between the pandemic and divisions in the country.” She observed that there is such a high level of acceptance at Vicki’s, which is what makes the diner so special. As it says in the menu, Vicki’s warm and welcoming environment is a place “where good friends meet and new friends are made.”

Vicki’s is one of the only true places of community remaining in Westfield. WHS senior Bianca Popa, who likes to eat breakfast at Vicki’s with her friends, said, “The possibility of Vicki’s closing [made] me sad because so many of Westfield’s favorite spots have been closing recently, like the Rialto. It’s always heartbreaking when such a popular spot in Westfield is shut down.”

Despite the challenges that Vicki’s has faced in the last few months, Peter is hopeful that they are going to survive. With indoor dining opening at 25 percent capacity, outdoor seating and online orders being offered, business has picked up and things at Vicki’s are starting to return to normal. 

Link to the GoFundme page