By Lisa Scheid
Reading Eagle Correspondent
David M. Kleckner has designed countless buildings and hundreds of restaurants in 30 years, but it's the diners that are his creative favorite.
If you've driven down a major road in Berks County, you've probably encountered some of David M. Kleckner's diner architecture.
You may have marveled at the neon, glass or stainless steel, too.
Perhaps you felt a bit nostalgic, or even hungry.
Kleckner has designed 10 diners in the region, including Americana Diner, Bechtelsville; Crossroads Restaurant, Muhlenberg Township; Happy Days Diner and Happy Days Family Restaurant, Thorndale. Chester County; Route 61 Diner, Muhlenberg Township; Springfield Diner, near Upper Darby, Delaware County; Exton Diner, Lionville, Chester County; and Collegeville Diner, Collegeville, Montgomery County.
His latest will be the Leesport Diner under construction along Route 61 in Ontelaunee Township.
The new 157-seat diner will sit about 30 feet higher than its predecessor, The Leesport Family Restaurant. The exterior will be comprised of sloped glass, stainless steel, colored glass and granite. The new diner will be on the exact building footprint of the diner that was knocked down in March.
While Kleckner has designed countless buildings and hundreds of restaurants in 30 years, it's the diners that are his creative favorite. "There's more creativity and more freedom when you are doing one of these," he said. The challenge for Kleckner is be nostalgic and original. And he loves it.
Inspired by juke box
For example, Americana Diner along Route 100 in Bechtelsville was inspired by a Wurlitzer juke box. He's always on the lookout for details and ideas to inspire his designs.
Kleckner has a bachelor's degree in architecture from Penn State. Prior to forming David M. Kleckner Architects PC, Kleckner was president of Commercial Design Group Inc., a commercial interior design firm, and design director of Total Interiors, a division of Singer Equipment Co., specializing in restaurant and hospitality design.
He credits his time at Singer for shaping his career and his ability to design restaurants. He is able to translate the restaurateur's needs into design. "Henry Singer taught me to be a businessman," Kleckner said. "Those 10 years were definitely an extension of my five years at Penn State."
Kleckner also has designed office buildings, industrial facilities, apartment buildings, private residences, retail space, truck dealerships, warehouses and educational facilities. Other restaurants he's designed include Chef Alan's in Fairgrounds Square Mall; Kildare's Irish Pub, a restaurant chain in North Carolina and Pennsylvania; and five restaurants that make up the Doc Magrogan's Oyster House chain in New Jersey, Indiana and Pennsylvania.
Kleckner has developed a longstanding relationship with Ciatto Construction Inc., 1325 Allegheny Ave., to build his diner designs. "Greg (Ciatto) has people that can do what I draw," Kleckner said. "My connection with him goes back over 30 years."
The restaurant business is competitive and design does make a difference, Kleckner said. Functionally, diner and restaurant layout are similar, but it's the interior and exterior style that can set them apart. "The function is pretty similar," he said. "It's the creativity of the outside of the building that's different."
But Kleckner makes no promises to his clients.
"I can bring the clientele there with uniqueness, but then it's up to them (diner operators) with their food and their service to keep them," Kleckner said.