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Kodak retiree opens '50s-style diner

Charles Constantino has always been a collector of sorts.

A fan of 1950s memorabilia, he enjoys scouring for signs, decor and furniture from that era.

"You know that show American Picker? I'm it," he said.

He found a perfect way to share his love of all things vintage. About six months ago, Constantino opened Reminisce Soda Fountain Diner at 3013 Main St. in Caledonia, creating a fun atmosphere with memorabilia, an old-fashioned soda fountain and a jukebox.

Constantino, 55, took a buyout from Eastman Kodak Co. in 2014 after working there for 32 years in rolled coating production.

"I found a way to make retirement work," he said.

Unlike a large corporation where workers focus on one skill, a small-business owner has to do everything, Constantino said. He makes the chili, cleans and does everything that has to be done with a small staff. He continues to live in Rochester and makes the 25-minute drive to Caledonia, opening the business there because he saw an opportunity for a retro diner.

Reminisce Diner opens in Caledonia (Photo: Mary Chao)

The small diner is a trip back in time with a collection of 1950s goodies. Constantino is proud of the 1950s Coca-Cola sign that graces his shop and the 1940s Dunhill fountain that dispenses soda. He traveled across country to accumulate the collection to decorate his restaurant.

"I've been collecting for 20 years," Constantino said.  Reminisce serves American fare just like a 1950s diner would, with old-fashioned fountain sodas, malts and milk shakes, burgers and daily specials such as Italian night on Wednesdays, when homemade sauce and other specialties are served. There's also diner fare such as old-fashioned meatloaf with vegetables and potatoes for $8.29 and homemade chicken and dumplings for $7.99. Kids meals such as The Lil' Elvis, which is a peanut butter and banana sandwich with a side, is $3.29.

Livonia resident Vic Ranieri, 69, visited the restaurant for the first time Monday and was impressed with the changes. He used to frequent Town & Country, which was the diner before Constantino took it over and renovated it.  "I like the cleanliness, decor and food," Ranieri said.