Feeding friends in Florissant

Feeding friends in Florissant

Newly renovated Florissant City Diner credits success to welcoming community

By Sara Hardin

When Max Kayo opened the Florissant City Diner for business in 2004, it was a quaint breakfast joint bringing in just enough revenue to keep its doors open. Now, 13 years later, it boasts a colorful new seating area and has solidified itself as a favorite breakfast and lunch spot for community residents.

Diner regulars have familiarized themselves with the extraordinary kindness shown by both Max and his wife Dani, both of whom credit the business’s success with the incredible support they have seen from their longtime customers who frequent the restaurant at 1060 St. Francois Street in Florissant.

“We wanted to do this renovation for a long time,” said Max Kayo. “Before we expanded we had pretty good business, but we always had a problem with seating. Since we remodeled, the business has increased about 40 percent. So far it’s been great. I have a lot of support through the community, from the city hall, from everybody. The same people who were coming in regularly are still coming in. We are blessed.”

Renovations on the diner began in January, after the diner acquired the neighboring space left behind by its retired tenants. After three months of work, the new space more than doubled the size of the diner and featured all new flooring and colorful red and blue wall paneling. The increase in size has resulted in a completely new look and feel to the diner, ensuring that each hungry customer has a comfortable place to sit.

“We had 27 seats. Now we’re up to 65,” said Dani Kayo. “We were feeling bad before, seeing families leaving. On the weekends we couldn’t seat everybody together. We were always trying to put tables together. We see now that groups and families are coming back.”

Within the story of the diner also lies the story that brought the couple together. Neither Max nor Dani, both immigrants, could have imagined that their paths would have led them here when they first stepped foot in America. Max moved from Turkey 20 years ago to join two of his cousins who were living in St. Louis.

After cooking for various restaurants and learning how to cook breakfast and American food through some friends, he decided to buy the Florissant City Diner from its previous owners and start his own business venture. Eventually he crossed paths with Dani, who had moved from Brazil to become a nanny for a family in St. Louis.

“Six to eight months after opening the diner, I met Dani through some friends,” explained Max Kayo. “I had a roommate who was friends with her sister. She and I were friends for a few months and we decided to start dating, and then we got married. We had three weddings: a wedding here, a wedding in Brazil and a wedding in Turkey. I opened the business in 2004, we met in 2005 and we got married in 2006. Everything happens for a reason. God put us together, we believe.”

After 12 years together, Max and Dani have cultivated a respected, award-winning community eatery. They have recently celebrated the addition of a son and a daughter to their family, and enjoy their life together at the diner and at their home in Spanish Lake. They plan to move closer to Florissant to be closer to the diner and to the community members they have become so close to.

“We have always been so thankful for our regular customers and all of the residents from Florissant and Hazelwood,” said Dani Kayo. “We have so many supporters.”

“You can’t plan a lot of things in life. Sometimes it’s out of your control,” said Max Kayo. “But people are so nice in Florissant. We are really blessed to be here, definitely.”

Visit the Florissant City Diner any day of the week between 7 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

CUTLINES: Photos by Sara Hardin

Cover-Diner1: Dani (left) and Max Kayo are the owners and operators of Florissant City Diner. Max opened the restaurant in 2004.

Cover-Diner2: Renovations on the Florissant City Diner began in January, after the diner acquired the neighboring space left behind by its retired tenants. After three months of work, the new space more than doubled the size of the diner.

Cover-Diner3: The Florissant City Diner at 1060 St. Francois Street in Florissant across the street from City Hall.