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EXCLUSIVE: New chapter in Hinsch’s saga as Ridge favorite becomes Stewart’s

The signs, they are a-changin’.

Mike’s Hinsch’s—the 2013 reboot of the decades-old diner, which first opened in 1915—is in the process of changing over to a Stewart’s All American, according to owners. With the change comes a new, bright orange sign that went up Tuesday afternoon, replacing one that had replaced the original iconic sign.

The longstanding eatery (located at 8518 Fifth Avenue) will still be owned and operated by Mike Moudatsos—the experienced restaurateur who, with his son, Lee, purchased the 24-hour hot-spot in March of 2013 from former owner Roger Desmond .

The father-and-son duo has recently signed on as partners of the Stewart’s franchise.

“Stewart’s is an old brand—even older than Hinsch’s—with the same basic concept of an old soda shop, so we thought it was a great idea to bring it here and kind of merge it with Hinsch’s,” explained Lee. “That way, we keep it the same while expanding a little.”

BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photo by Jaime DeJesus
BROOKLYN MEDIA GROUP/Photo by Jaime DeJesus

According to Lee, the revamped eatery—to be called simply, Stewart’s—will still hold much of Hinsch’s’ history.

“We’re still making homemade ice cream—we’ve been making it for years—and we’ve added soft serve,” said the owner who, Stewart’s President Jim LaGanke noted, will soon become the company’s director of operations. “We’ll still be serving that, as well as the Hinsch’s’ chocolate everybody loves.”

According to LaGanke, this will be the first Stewart’s in Brooklyn—and only the second in New York City (the first is a kiosk within the Staten Island Mall). Since its inception in 1924, Stewart’s has opened in six states along the east coast in a number of different forms, from full-service sit-downs (like Hinsch’s) to walk-up windows and even mobile concession trailers.

“We’re very excited, first to partner with Mike and Lee, and second to bring the brand to Brooklyn,” said LaGanke, enthusiastic about the Bay Ridge location’s full-service format. “One thing that’s very powerful about the Stewart’s brand is that it truly transcends generations. It’s a brand that’s been around for over 90 years but is still so popular today, if not more than it ever has been.”

That multi-generational vibe, Lee added, helped seal the deal.

“The whole thing is, Stewart’s reaches both the younger generations and the older,” he said. “We thought it would draw more of the younger crowd in but, at the same time, we’re hopeful we can still appeal to the same faces we’ve been serving for years.”

Outside the eatery, passersby remarked on the change. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I went in and all the same people are working there. I’m not upset about the change as long as the food is still good,” noted Silvia K.

Hinsch’s originally opened as Reichert’s before business owner Herman Hinsch took over in 1948. It was shuttered suddenly on September 29, 2011, by another former owner John Logue, whose decision was spurred by current economic conditions, customers’ changing eating patterns and [the Logue family’s] desire to retire early. Desmond and partners Gerard Bell and Bill Gardell then took over before passing the torch to the Moudatsos’ (who, Desmond told this paper, is a “never-say-die guy.”)

When asked for his thoughts on the change, Desmond said, “It’s encouraging that a big company like Stewart’s decided it might work. I wish them nothing but the best.”

Additional reporting by Jaime DeJesus and Helen Klein.

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