The new 5 & Diner is expected to open February 2015 and is about 8 miles from campus.

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Noelly Rosado had never imagined she would helplessly watch her second home become swallowed by flames — but after midnight on March 22, 2013, that is what she did after a fire burned down her family restaurant, the 5 & Diner.

"It was like a sinkhole, everything just started falling inside," Noelly said of her restaurant that was once located on Colonial near Waterford Lakes Town Center.

It burned for more than 12 hours, and firefighters struggled throughout the night to extinguish the blaze.

"You knew it was just going to be totally gone," said Jay Rosado, Noelly's husband and co-owner.

But Noelly and Jay aren't the type to give up, despite a long, taxing journey.

After more than a year of conflicts with insurance and banks, and no hope in rebuilding the place after its demolition, the couple finally signed a lease for a new place in Downtown Avalon Park at 13001 Founders Square Drive.

The new 5 & Diner is expected to open February 2015 and is about 8 miles from campus.

"I just take it as a blessing from God," Noelly said. "I question, 'Why did you take that away from me?' But I think he had a better location for me."

It became silent as she paused, her strong, smooth voice weakening as she remembered the past year.

"I would never wish this on anyone," Noelly said.

When Jay and Noelly said goodbye to the '50s-themed diner, they said goodbye to the place where customers would stop by for breakfast before work on a regular basis and whose kids would pose with life-size cutouts of Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley during birthday parties. But the couple is determined to recreate those memories.

UCF students would frequent the place — which then was 3 miles from campus — for late dinners, Jay said, especially when it used to be open 24 hours.

Jennifer Dillon, a UCF psychology and criminal justice alumna, worked at the 5 & Diner for almost 12 years. Dillon said she hopes to be there for the February opening, just as she was there for the old location's opening.

"It was just one of those once-in-a-lifetime jobs," Dillon said. "You helped pick people up and helped people smile, and make their day altogether better."

Dillon said she misses working at the diner, and remembered crying with Jay and Noelly as they watched the old diner get bulldozed a few days after Christmas 2013.

She wished she could have kept a memento before the demolition, but a couple of burnt, framed photographs and a tainted 5-foot-3 jukebox were among the only items to make it out of the flames last year — and the jukebox still works. Jay, Noelly and their five children cried tears of joy when they turned it on and it sang Shirley Ellis' "The Name Game."

"Because of our loyal fans, we were still able to maintain — and basically keep — our heads above water," Jay said.

Regular customers wrote cards to the Rosados, expressing sympathy and offering support. That was the nature of the people who frequented the place.

Noelly remembered a 70-year-old customer who came in for breakfast one morning, had his typical eggs benedict and hung around after paying his check to gift Noelly with a birthday card.

"In order to have a good life you need three things: faith, family and friends… and thanks to you, I have a friend," the card read.

After meeting several restaurant owners in Avalon Park, Jay said it has given him hope for success at the new location.

"Bringing my family back together again will be worth the wait," Noelly said.

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