Choo Choo Charlies Open for Business

Chuckie Shlotzhauer stands in front of his new grills just two days before opening his Oneida diner.

By Margo Frink

(Oneida, NY – Nov. 2012) Hungry diners who’ve been walking by, peaking their heads in and asking, “when you going to open?” can step inside and grab a bite to eat at Choo Choo Charlies, now open in downtown Oneida.

The diner opened Monday morning, Nov. 19.

Charles “Chuckie” Shlotzhauer II flipped eggs and burgers at Murphy’s Corner Diner, 236 Main St. for 21 years. When Gary Murphy closed the door at the end of September, Shlotzhauer decided to make some changes and open it back up.

Fresh coats of beige paint give the place a warm and inviting feeling. But friends like Jerry DeBalso, Dave Berquist and Shlotzhauer’s dad, Charlie, who comes into the diner everyday miss socializing with friends.

When DeBalso was asked why he comes here to eat rather than somewhere else he said, “I know the people here.”

You won’t find much in the way of train memorabilia but if you’re a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, then you won’t be disappointed.

If it was Shlotzhauer’s food that kept people coming back then diners should expect some of the old favorites with a few surprises.

“It’s the same menu but I added a few things,” Shlotzhauer said. “I lowered the prices on a couple of items and I had the kids create a burger.”

By kids he means, his kids. Shlotzhauer will be at the helm but the business will employ family. Wait staff includes his brother, Davey, daughters Courtney and Brittany, and his wife Kim and their son Dylan.

Shlotzhauer will have a new grill, fryer and stove to cook with. The place also has new floors, tables and chairs, a dishwasher and all the refrigeration is new.

Choo Choo Charlies will offer new hours of operation. Winter hours the diner will be open 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday and 5 to 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. During the summer he will be open 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, 5 to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and closed on Sunday.

The diner was never open weekends before.

Winter hours are in effect now through Memorial Day and summer hours continue until the weekend after Labor Day.

Shlotzhauer lived in Oneida for 42 years before moving to Sherrill seven years ago. His wife, Kim, is from the VVS area. He has four children, Charles “Chuck” III, twin daughters, Courtney and Brittany and Dylan who is 13. He has two grandchildren, Cole and Emma and one on the way. Brittany is expecting.

Shlotzhauer said he has so many people to thank for helping him get the place open: Corey Hutt, Dave Berquist, Chuck Hamilton, Vinnie Spadafora, Dave Harrington, and George Clarke, his landlord Alex Tremblis and other family and friends.

“If I forgot anyone, I’m sorry,” he said.

The sign above the door was a gift from his wife, kids, brother, and sister Michelle Schon.

Why Choo Choo Charlies? Shlotzhauer played a lot of softball in his day. Several years ago he was putting together a team for a Rome tournament and when asked what the name was he said he didn’t have one. When he got to the tournament, he found his team under the name Choo Choo Charlies “because I was fast in my younger day,” Shlotzhauer said. The name stuck.

Margo Frink is vice president of M3P Media LLC and publisher of the Madison County Courier. She can be reached at or 315-481-8732.



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