FOLSOM — Harley Dawn Diner is doing more than telling customers it is closed during construction.
It’s showing them, 24 hours a day, by streaming on its website its construction of a more energy-efficient building.
The diner’s website shows a live feed of construction workers. Co-owner April Emmons said a new website and Facebook launch are to keep customers connected while the diner’s closed for months.
Small businesses can learn some lessons from the diner’s approach in a digital age, when keeping customers engaged means more than ever before, said Carolinn Pocher Woody, digital marketing strategist for Princeton Strategic Communications of Cape May.
This method of staying connected with a business’ audience can have other applications for small business, including construction updates, grand-opening participation and social-media interaction, she said.
“I think it is a two-fold thing: Basically, it shows that small business has to be more creative than ever with customers,” Pocher Woody said. “But it also says that with digital marketing, there are low-cost ways that won’t break the bank that can keep customers interested in the product.”
With her diner, April Emmons said, the main goal was to invite customers to join them with every click of the mouse.
“Transparency and being connected, tapping into the synergy of authentic food and authentic sustainability, will invite our loyal guests to come along on the journey that will drive the new diner to deliver value in new, compelling and more convenient ways so we can thrive into the future,” Emmons said.
Jerry Caruso, 60, of Cinnaminson, is the co-owner of Networks Plus LLC, the company that set up the live feed.
Caruso installed the cameras so April and her co-owner, husband Dave, could run them themselves.
IT specialist Sean Elliot thought of installing a second, time-lapse camera so customers could see the six-month construction sped up into one quick video once the diner was finished.
Caruso said the family’s decision to shut down shop for six months was risky, but allowing their customers to be a part of the experience with the live construction — a “very unique situation”— helps.
“It’s a brave new world,” Caruso said. “Who would’ve thought that a small diner on a highway in the middle of the Pine Barrens would be up in the latest technology and that they know that they needed it to keep their restaurant going?”
Caruso and Networks Plus will install security cameras, phone systems and networking wiring for the new diner, which formerly comprised a remodeled steel-car diner from the 1940s that was attached to a masonry block addition and a kitchen wrapped in stone veneer.
Though the building held up well, April Emmons said, it was an “energy pig” that failed miserably at keeping a comfortable environment for her guests.
The diner plans to install a geothermal system for heating, cooling and hot water, which captures the stored energy from the earth, as the starting point to condition the space needed.
“By using the captive, constant energy provided by the earth, we only need to ‘inject’ a small amount of electric energy to produce the comfortable air temperature and hot water we need,” Emmons said.
Emmons, 51, of Franklin Township, Gloucester County, said though the upfront cost is more expensive for the new building, its 4,700 square feet instead of its previous 2,800 square feet should pay off.
The diner will add insulated, thermal-efficient windows and brand new kitchen equipment in refrigeration, stoves and grills.
The company did not disclose the total cost of the project.
Harley Dawn closed after Mother’s Day and began construction in September.
Emmons hope to be ready to serve customers again soon after the start 2016.