Posted by: dinerhotline | May 1, 2014

Shawmut Diner closes, starting a new life and redifined purpose

Shawmut-Diner-5_3-30-2104
New Bedford, Massachusetts’ Shawmut Diner on next-to-last day of operation
March 30, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera

On a rainy, gloomy Sunday morning, Denise and I visited the Shawmut Diner for the last time at its first and only operating location! We had a late breakfast at around 11:00 am (we usually eat closer to 7:00 am) in the extremely crowded diner. Phil & Celeste Paleologos, the owners and caretakers of this well preserved late model (1954) Jerry O’Mahony diner since February of 1981 had decided to retire. A deal was made to sell the valuable property located at the busy corner of Shawmut Avenue and Hathaway Road to convenience store chain Cumberland Farms. The Paleologos’ knowing the nostalgic value of the diner building were hoping to find a local buyer who would move the diner to a new location but these likely buyers never materialized. So at the time of the closing Phil was resigned to move the diner off the property and into storage on his dime.

Shawmut-Diner-1_3-30-2104
The Shawmut Diner serving a packed crowd on the last Sunday in operation
March 30, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera

Shawmut-Diner-3_3-30-2104
The Shawmut Diner serving a packed crowd on the last Sunday in operation
March 30, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera

Shawmut-Diner-4_3-30-2104
Saying goodbye to Phil & Celeste Paleologos, among the most congenial hosts
I have ever had the pleasure to know! March 30, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera

After we had an excellent last breakfast (I had to sample some of Denise’s wonderful Shawmut Diner Cheese Roll) as well as an emotional farewell to Phil, Celeste and the diner, we drove back home and I immediately downloaded my photos to the computer. I posted 2 or 3 on my Facebook page. I had made plans to start this post but decided to hold off. I had heard from Marybeth Shanahan who inquired about the diner. Marybeth is the owner of the Dream Diner in Tyngsboro, Mass. The Dream Diner is a stick-built (on-site) diner that does a tremendous business hard by the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border. Marybeth’s “dream” has always been to somehow obtain a classic diner and asked me if I thought the Shawmut would fit in front of her building. I told her that it probably would but she would have to sacrifice some parking to do it. So the next day I got Phil and Marybeth together to talk it over. After Phil made some inquiries about the cost of moving the diner it was decided that the cost to move it from New Bedford on the South Coast to Tyngsboro in the Northern Suburbs was probably cost prohibitive for Marybeth.

So now Phil & Celeste had to come to a final decision as to the final solution to where the diner would ultimately go, as it needed to be moved ASAP. Well this past Tuesday (2 days ago), I got an urgent message to call Phil. He told me that they had come to a decision and the family decided to donate the diner to the nearby Bristol County House of Correction. The prison is located about six miles from the diner’s location, making the move relatively short, but albeit still a very costly one. Phil made the official announcement the next day on his radio show (WBSM-AM, Mid-Day magazine show).

Phil also sent this email to me and Richard Gutman as a courtesy announcement…

Hi Larry and Dick: As nationally revered diner experts, I wanted to personally share some good news with you and all our diner friends. Celeste and I, along with our children, have decided to donate the Shawmut Diner to the Bristol County House of Correction on Faunce Corner Rd. in Dartmouth, Mass. In what is an unconventional move, to say the least, is also the direction we decided for our diner as she enters a new chapter of serving people. We’ve always thanked God for the blessings the Shawmut Diner gave us as a family, and to the community, as well. More than just a local eatery, the diner has taken on a spirit of community building and goodwill. That’s the reasoning behind our donation. In essence, we are hopeful the diner will give inmates a new beginning that they can take with them as they transition back into the community from incarceration. The diner will be lifted off its foundation on Friday, May 2, however, it will be transported to its new home on Tuesday, May 6 at 9 am.

 As always, Celeste, Andrea, Athena, Alex, our 7 grandchildren and I send our warmest regards!

It has yet to be determined if the diner will be open to the public when at the new location but it is seriously being considered by the Bristol County Sherriff, Thomas Hodgson. If it does, I will certainly check it out!
The following is a link to A South Coast Today article…
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140501/NEWS/405010383

The following are images from my collection…

beckys_shawmut_diner
a painting by my friend Becky Haletky, highly reminiscent of my last visit in March!

 

Shawmut-Diner-2_5-28-11
a photo of mine that appeared in my book, Classic Diners of Massachusetts

 

Shawmut1
Perhaps my favorite of all my photos of this diner over the years…

I will say this again, I will miss going to this diner when in the neighborhood as well as seeing my friends, Phil & Celeste. I want to wish Phil and Celeste a happy retirement, I know we will stay in touch!

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Responses

  1. What a story, and what a gorgeous diner! Hopefully the House of Corrections (an odd choice?) recipients revere it the way it’s owners once did.


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