Moab Happenings Archive
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The Moab Diner and Ice Cream Shoppe: Forever Moab
By Linda Schmidt

For years the Moab Diner has been serving fantastic all-American food with fantastic service. An all-American classic, it is truly a Moab icon. Without loosing its character or popularity, this landmark business has undergone two major changes since it opened in the early 1960’s. It began its long life as a Poor Boy drive-in restaurant complete with carhops, a place that provided not only good food at the right price (29¢ burgers!), but also a great hang-out for high school students. The first big change came in the late 70’s when the building was enclosed, creating an indoor eatery that was renamed the Grand Ice Cream Parlor. Its new menu, which included breakfast, a variety of other items, and real ice cream, made it a popular coffee shop. In 1993, Geoff and Teri Thomas purchased the establishment and gradually molded it into the great restaurant that it is today. Their work was done slowly and thoughtfully, so the Diner never seemed to change but always improved.

In February of 2019, after working with Geoff and Teri for a year and a half, Justin and Hanah Cosenza became the Moab Diner’s new owners. The establishment has stayed in the family; Geoff is Hanah’s uncle. This engaging young couple met (in a restaurant) and married in Reno, Nevada. They were working in the restaurant business when Geoff let them know that the Diner was for sale. They jumped at the opportunity of having their own restaurant, and particularly this restaurant. Moving to Moab was a homecoming for Hanah. Her grandparents live here, to the delight of the Cosenza’s three little daughters, and her parents grew up here. She marvels that someone in her family has owned and operated a Moab Main Street business for the last 57 years, and now she and her husband are continuing the tradition!

The Cosenzas, competent and enthusiastic, assure faithful customers that there are no changes on the horizon for either the Diner’s menu or its lively decor. Finely tuned by its previous owners, both have proven to be extremely popular. They will also stick to their lower prices; Justin says the restaurant’s tasty food will never be priced for tourists, but for the local crowd. The Moab Diner is always packed during the tourist season, and Justin and Hanah, seasoned restaurant workers, enjoy being busy with Moab’s visitors. They are also enjoying this winter, with its slower business, getting better acquainted with their local clientele.

Breakfast #1 (Lion’s Back), the Diner Deluxe cheeseburger, and their hard-packed ice cream, particularly in shakes, are the most popular items on the large, inviting menu. Green chili, the best that can be had anywhere, is included with many entrees. It can also be ordered as a side—and highly recommended by this eater/writer. The restaurant is open Monday through Saturday, with hours to suit every schedule: 6am to 9pm Monday through Thursday, and 6am to 10pm on Friday and Saturday. Specials are offered every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; you may want to memorize the listings on the website! Tour groups will be happily accommodated with advance arrangements.

For an all-around treat, come in and enjoy really good all-American food in the Moab Diner and Ice Cream Shoppe. The decor is bright and cheerful with its 60’s food slogans above the booths, and the service is great. This Moab classic will win your heart! Located at 189 South Main Street (on the east side): you can’t miss it. Phone 435-259-4006; email;

Two Scholarships at USU Moab:
The Golden Ticket & the Cornelius Family Scholarship

Around four years ago, Jeff and Nicole Cornelius noticed there was a high turnover rate of teachers in Moab. To help keep teachers in Moab, they decided to create the Cornelius Family Scholarship. The goal of the scholarship is to motivate Moab residents to earn an education degree and get local teaching jobs. The Cornelius Family Scholarship is specific to students on track to earn an education degree from Utah State University (USU) Moab.

“When I was in dental school in Kentucky, Nicole worked as a first and second grade teacher,” said Jeff. “We were able to see firsthand the amount of work and dedication teachers put into their careers. Now that our kids are in school, we want to do everything we can to make sure they are getting a quality education.”

Jeff and Nicole moved to Moab with their family in 2006 to join Jeff’s brother, Bryant, at the Moab Dental Health Center. Bryant opened the dental office in 1999, and left in 2013 to pursue more educational opportunities.

On the heels of creating their first scholarship, Jeff got an idea to start a second. Each year, he cuts a lot of gold crowns out of patients’ mouths. “Each time, I tell them they can keep it, or, they can give it to me to continue growing a USU Moab scholarship.” The patients are almost always willing to donate their gold. By collecting this extracted gold, Jeff created The Golden Ticket Scholarship for USU Moab students in healthcare degrees, like nursing.

“It’s been a fun way to get my patients involved,” said Jeff. “Now, students can get the funding they need to get important degrees in healthcare, and then hopefully find jobs in Moab to make our community even better.”

The Cornelius family loves Moab. Both Jeff and Nicole have university degrees, and recognize how great of an effect an education has on your quality of life. They hope to continue to help students through scholarships at USU Moab, believing that many students will decide to stay in Moab after graduating to do their part in giving back to the community.

“Thanks to these generous donations from the Cornelius family, many of our students are able to focus more of their time on their degrees and increase their likelihood to graduate,” said Samantha Campbell, USU Moab director of students. “We know that financial constraint is one of the biggest hurdles to student success, so scholarships like these have a huge impact. We are very grateful.”

To learn more about USU Moab scholarship opportunities or to learn how to create your own, contact Campbell at 435-797-5110 and be sure to mention you read about it in Moab Happenings.
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