Sometimes in small towns, the lines become blurred between businesses and public institutions. So it is with the Sherwood Diner, which for many people over the last week or so has been a veritable home away from home in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
"We're seeing the same customers for breakfast, lunch and dinner," Nichole Carrafiello, a waitress there for over eight years, said Sunday.
"It's a great environment," said Reid Rizack, 13, of Westport. "It's cozy here -- always warm and comforting."
"And we always see someone we know," said his mother, Jill Rizack.
As of Sunday, power still had not been restored to the family home, nor had they had the chance to finish repairing the roof, which was under construction was the storm swept through.
Still, they were counting their blessings. "It's a luxury problem," Jill said, referencing the power outage and related issues.
And now, like so many people in town, they've found hot food, comfort and camaraderie in this Westport mainstay.
"They're always reliable," said Chrissey Hunt of Westport. "They're always open."
"The house gets really boring," said her daughter, Sophie Hunt, 13.
"It's good to get out," said her twin sister, Amelia. "The food's good -- comfort food."
Dimitri Alatakis, the diner's co-owner, said business has been busier than last year's storm.
"First thing Wednesday morning, from the time we opened, we've been pretty much going nonstop," he said.
The Post Road diner -- a local landmark since opening in the mid-1970s -- initially lost power for a few hours Monday morning.
"We were lucky," Alatakis said, in part because they were closed anyway by 2 p.m. that day.
"And we were very lucky that our purveyors were able to start running on Wednesday and keep us supplied," he said.
More importantly, he said, the customers have been very appreciative of having a place to come, eat and spend time.
"I've felt a lot of love," he said. "It was tough work, but everybody's been sweet as pie."
"People have become tremendously nicer to each other," concurred Veronica Plesz, a waitress there for four years. "People seem to have a lot of patience. Nobody's really mean or short-tempered."
"I think it's really had a good impact on people, despite their losses," she said. "It brings people together."
At the same time, Plesz and others said they are exhausted from post-storm influx.
"We're so burned out," Plesz said. "We're all exhausted, but we're all doing the best that we can."
"It's kept us hopping," said Lisa Vlash, a diner cashier for 10 years.
"People had a place to go," she said. "A lot of people appreciate it. It gives them time away from the house."