Jerry Schultz entered his Cordes Junction diner about four months ago and sampled one of his own burgers. "I didn't think it was that good," he said. His reaction started the ball rolling for a complete renovation of the former C.J. Diner, now the 50's Backseat Diner, and on Saturday, they will celebrate the change in a big way.
Even though the Schultz' pride themselves on a clean, light diner (they are recipients of the Yavapai County Golden Plate Award this year), they decided they wanted to do a bit more to make the diner attractive for travelers and locals alike. They started with the burgers and fries.
The diner's signature burger, "The Big Bopper," is now tastier, thanks to a "secret ingredient," asserts Robbin Schultz with a twinkle in her eye. The diner also now purchases "private reserve" French fries soaked in brine for their distinct flavor. Jerry said the new burgers and fries cost more for the diner to purchase, but customers are giving them good reviews.
The burger and fries upgrade prompted the Schultzes to rethink their diner's name and décor as well.
"We didn't feel like we had an identity," Robbin said. "No one knew what C.J. was."
The new 50's Backseat Diner sports everything 50s from real barstools from a defunct Woolworth's store, a 50s mural and records on the walls, to new tile and booths. Diners can enjoy a thick old-fashioned milkshake along with that new tastier burger, and catch a bit of nostalgia at the same time.
The new soda fountain also will feature a "Fried Twinkie Delight," "Twinkie Split," and "Chocolate Cow," a chocolate Coke float.
"We wanted to do something fun, and it's working," Jerry said.
Diners also can enjoy eating on the outdoor patio next to a small park. Already two couples have married in the park's gazebo, and the motel has housed guests from all over the world, including Russia and Italy.
Jerry and Robbin met in Proctor, Minn., where he was in the Air Force and Robbin worked in her parents' restaurant. Jerry later worked selling restaurant equipment. Both said they never would work in the restaurant business again, but six years ago, they opened the C.J. Diner. Now, along with the diner, they run the Cordes Junction Motel and RV Park, a clean and simple place to rest with a great view east to wide open spaces.
Robbin said the couple wants local kids, along with adults and visitors, to feel comfortable to gather with their friends at the diner and enjoy some good company and food.
"We want everyone to come and have a happy, relaxing time," she said.
The couple invites everyone to visit this Friday, April 30, from 2 - 8 p.m. for the diner's "Birthday Party." They'll have balloons for the kids, cake and ice cream, and as a special treat from 5 - 8 p.m., the popular Prescott Valley band, Sky Daddy and the Pop Rocks will entertain with rock and roll, surf, and rockabilly music of the 1950s and early 1960s. The Schultzes encourage guests to bring their classic cruisers to the event for everyone's enjoyment.
The 50's Backseat Diner is at the Cordes Junction Motel & RV Park,
I-17 & Hwy 69 interchange, just east of the Shell Travel Center.
(look for the HUGE American Flag).