After train derailment, nearby restaurant Pete’s Clown House gets its 15 minutes

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If you were paying close attention to photos of the Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia this week — or watching live media briefings — you might have noticed seen a certain, oddly-named storefront showing up in the background.

It’s a restaurant called Pete’s Clown House, situated on the very corner where most news crews set up their cameras. And for the last few days it’s been at the center of a major breaking news story — a position that’s out of the ordinary for a neighborhood eatery like the Clown House.

“Our regulars are our heartbeat here. Without the regulars we’re nothing,” said Rob Bordone, who bought the restaurant from the original Pete in 1989.  (Pete was a man who, yes, very much loved clowns, but no one we could reach recalled his last name. If you’ve got the answer, let us know in the comment section below.)

Since then, Bordone hasn’t changed the name or much else about the restaurant, and the locals who stop in for coffee and the creamed chipped beef seem to prefer it that way.

“We get a lot of regulars and everything, like, the same people everyday. We’re usually really busy, and on the weekends we’re double busy,” said waitress Kimberly Pinciotti.

One of those regulars is John Powell, who lives across the street above the auto garage he owns.

“It’s an institution for the neighborhood,” he said.

Powell says the news crews that descended on the neighborhood this week to cover the derailment have mostly been polite to him, except for one from New York which he called “an ignorant bunch of ignoramuses that were very disruptive.”

Dining on eggs and toast early Friday morning, Ken Cooper said that while the restaurant is clearly a neighborhood institution, that neighborhood’s name is up for debate.

“To be honest with you I’ve been around here all my life. I don’t know whether this is Juniata, Bridesburg, Richmond, or Tacony. I mean this is like right there in the corner of everything,” Cooper said.

Staff and customers alike said that the tracks, which can be seen from the front steps of the Clown House, are part of the fabric of the neighborhood.

For that reason, Bordone says Tuesday night’s derailment is something he’ll never forget.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life and I’m hoping we never have to see something like it again.”

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