Ioanious Georgeopolus opened a small lunch counter at 68 N. Main St. in Mansfield, Ohio.
Coney Island moved down the street to 98 N. Main where it is today.
The diner was renamed “Jack’s Coney Island” for a while
Mr. & Mrs. Smith have owned The Coney Island Diner since April 24, 1992.
The booths and counter remain the same as it was in the 40’s.
In 1919, a Greek immigrant by the name of Ioanious Georgeopolus opened a small lunch counter at 68 N. Main St. in Mansfield, Ohio. This was a big step from pushing an ice cream cart in the flats for several years, barely able to speak English. John George became well known in the area for his tasty coneys and pies and his friendly disposition. After 18 years at that location, his business thrived and the opportunity to move to a larger location became available.
In 1936 the Coney Island moved down the street to 98 N. Main where it is today. Once a clothing store called “The Harvard”, the new location was large enough to have a counter, booths, and small tables. The original neon sign, which was one of the first in Mansfield, advertised Coneys for 5 cents. A few years after, the price of dogs went up. To change the neon on the sign was quite an expense for the day, so he decided to add a metal covering over the price and advertise the convenience of “Air Conditioning”, also being one of the first to offer such a luxury in those days. The original sign along with the Air Condition cover are still present inside the diner today.
In 1967 after 49 years, John turned over the keys to a nephew and another employee. This worked for a few years until the nephew decided to go out on his own and open a restaurant in another location. The remaining employee, Jack Ewers, stayed at the Main St. location and operated under the name “Jacks Coney Island”. The business was successful early on, but in later years fell into disrepair and was on the verge of closing. The neighborhood was following in the same course.
In 1991, some local business leaders, led by visionary John Fernyak, had a plan to revive the area known today as The Carrousel District. A handmade wooden carrousel was erected in 1991 as the focal point of the area. Once established, the attraction was a springboard for many other new businesses and revitalized veteran shops in the district. John Fernyak was seeking business people with track record of success to join others in the newly formed area. The times in Mansfield were changing. Factories were closing; businesses were leaving, and the city was bracing, along with most cities our size in the country, for the transformation from industrial economy to service economy. That same year, Fernyak approached Jim and Cathy Smith, owners of Smitty’s Underground Restaurant, and asked if they would be interested in buying The Coney Island. It took a few months to convince the Smiths that an additional operation in the Carrousel District would be a good move.
On April 24, 1992, The Smiths were the new owners of The Coney Island Diner. As the diner was being renovated, the Smiths continued to operate both businesses. In 1996, Jim and Cathy decided to devote their full time to the diner and closed Smittys after 10 great years. The Carrousel District was growing and becoming more and more successful. The Coney Island Diner is now Mansfield’s oldest operating restaurant. The inside of the diner has undergone 2 major renovations; however, the booths and counter remain the same as it was in the 40’s. The menu is still American diner classic, focusing on the famous coneys with their famous secret sauce, and a newer favorite brought by the Smiths from their prior restaurant, Famous Pea Salad. The pea salad recipe was obtained from “The Yellow Deli Restaurant”, which was in the location of Smittys before the Smiths bought it in 1986. The menu today features old favorites along with more contemporary entrees and a separate dessert menu which includes smoothies, sundaes, root beer floats, banana splits, and other creations made with Hersheys Premium Hand Dipped Ice Cream.
History of the Coney Sauce
“Wondering about the secret Coney sauce? John George, of course, would have been, to my knowledge, the originator of the famous sauce. There have been many, many folks who have had and expressed opinions on their recollection of the taste, texture, color, and even smell of this invention, not to mention, the dogs and their length, circumference, flavor, color, and texture. When I purchased the diner in 1992, I made the sauce per instruction from Jack, the previous owner. He made the sauce from John, his former boss. Could that recipe and/or flavor have changed over 79 years? The answer, in my opinion is unequivocally yes……and no. Well, what changes? And what doesn’t? There are probably more than 100 variables in this scenario. Without giving away any of the secret ingredients, you have to assume that products, from the dog to the bun, to the spices, and even the cookware have changed over 79 years. More importantly, people’s taste buds have definitely changed from when they were a youth in 1949 or 69, 79, or 89.”