BURLINGTON, New Jersey (WPVI) — Karen Parker has been serving food and smiles to patrons at the Golden Dawn Diner since the 1990s. She says it’s the customers that keep her coming back to work every day.
But the hospitality world was turned upside-down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With time on her hands, Parker found some painting materials collecting dust in her closet. She brushed them off and got to work.
“It was a sad, sad, depressing time and painting kept me upbeat and positive,” said Parker. “It kept me going.”
Parker says she painted every day for the months-long span of shutdowns and cut hours.
“I had a closet full of paintings. I didn’t know what I was going to do with them,” she added. “So, my boss told me that I could put them up at the diner.”
Suddenly, the beige walls at the Golden Dawn popped with vibrant colors. Parker painted scenes of exotic beaches and fairytale waterfalls, partially inspired by growing up in Hawaii while her father served in the Air Force.
Some enamored customers even purchased paintings on the spot. Parker only charged them for the cost of supplies.
“Now you have people come in, maybe they’re not so happy, but if they see a painting, they smile,” she said. “For that reason, I think, is why I keep painting.”
Parker also has a talent for painting the bigger picture regarding what a diner truly means to its community. She proudly knows loyal customers’ favorite foods and takes pride in her relationships with them.
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