Posted by: dinerhotline | August 11, 2008

Lunch Box Diner (Malden, Mass.) Under New Management

I have known for a while that the couple running the Lunch Box Diner, Scott and Kristin Drago were looking to sell the business due to changing demographics, mainly family priorities and such. Business has been great and the Drago’s, with the able assistance of cook David Lane and their loyal waitresses have brought this little Worcester Diner back to being a great stop for breakfast and lunch. Denise and I were regular customers for Sunday morning breakfasts (at least 2 to 3 times a month). The diner located on Route 60 in Malden has seen many people operating it since the 1970′s under such names as Viv’s Diner, Judy’s Diner, Rose’s Lil’ Red Diner, Uncle Lester’s Diner and just prior to the Drago’s it was operated by my friend, John Harmon as Lulu’s.

As of August 4, 2008 the diner is now in the capable hands of Nick Master. If I am not mistaken, he will make a slight name change to Nick’s Lunch Box Diner. The menu will stay fairly close to what Scott and Kristen had with possibly some new additions. Nick is no stranger to food service and is very pleasant and affable and will fit right in with running the diner. Some of the waitstaff will stay on and Kristin will help in the transition for a short time herself. We wish good luck to Nick and his crew in keeping this little diner going as well as Scott and Kristin in their future endeavors.

Abbott’s Frozen Custard’s newly opened franchise in Needham, Mass.

I read with interest when the Boston Globe had a piece last week on the recent opening of an outlet of a Rochester, NY landmark business in Needham, Massachusetts. Abbott’s Frozen Custard which started in 1902 when Arthur Abbott started selling his frozen treat at local fairs. He opened a permanent store in 1926 in Rochester’s Charlotte neighborhood. So the ice cream lovers that we are, Denise and I took a ride over to Needham on Saturday afternoon to find the store and check out the offerings and see what the shouting was about. Well, we were more than pleased! It was delicious! We had the Red Raspberry flavored custard and we were hooked. Now I wish we lived a little closer. We met Mary Pat Dauria and her family who opened this franchise, she is a native of Rochester living here in the Boston area for 27 years. Every time the family went back to Rochester for visits one of their first stops was to Abbott’s. Theirs is not the first franchise outside of the Empire state, that distiction goes to Florida, but it is the first in New England. I’m hoping more open here in the future.

Here is the text of the piece from the Boston Globe….

Cold comfort
Abbott’s custard brings back good memories for customers

By Elizabeth Navisky, Globe Correspondent / July 29, 2008

NEEDHAM – She’s lived here for 27 years, but no one would mistake Mary Pat Dauria for a New Englander. “I still can’t get rid of the Rochester accent,” she says, ringing up another sale at Abbott’s Frozen Custard, her shop here. Both Dauria and the cash register have been quite busy since the store opened in June, serving an influx of customers hooked on the cold treat.
Thick frozen custard has inspired a devoted following, especially residents of Rochester, N.Y., the site of the original Abbott’s on Lake Ontario. Frozen custard, made with eggs, buttermilk, and cream, and churned slowly in a custom-made machine, is denser than traditional ice cream. “I missed Abbott’s,” says Dauria. “Every time I went back to Rochester the first thing we did was go there.” So five years ago, the former buyer for Filene’s hatched a plan to open an Abbott’s Frozen Custard franchise here, the first in New England (others are located in New York and Florida.)

It wasn’t long before transplanted Rochestarians found it. “I absolutely grew up on Abbott’s,” says Norma Greenberg, 76, waiting in line at the tiny storefront. She points to a 1939 photograph of the original Abbott’s on the wall. “I could be in one of these pictures!” The Newton resident heard about the new Abbott’s from a Needham friend. She rushed over that day and reminisced with Dauria about custard and all things Rochester.

Dauria has had many similar encounters since opening, and has a two-page list of local Rochestarians who have visited. She’s witnessed reunions of people who hadn’t seen each other since their school days in the snowy city, and has fielded requests for other Rochester treats, like white hots, a type of a hot dog eaten in the area.

Rochester residents were first introduced to frozen custard in 1902, when Arthur Abbott started flogging the confection at local fairs. He open a permanent location in 1926 in the Rochester neighborhood of Charlotte (pronounced “Shar-LOT” or, if you are from Rochester and have the signature flat twang, “Shar-LAAT”), which still exists today. Dauria points to an old photograph of that shop, showing a procession of people – as far as the eye can see – waiting for a custard. “It’s still like that,” she says. “They have to get extra police every summer in Charlotte to deal with those lines.”

The Needham location has its own queues to contend with, a fact that didn’t escape Annette Doolin, a University of Rochester graduate who drove from Swampscott to taste nostalgia. “I almost feel like jumping behind there and helping them out, I’m so committed to this custard,” she says. Doolin, 40, who was introduced to Abbott’s by a classmate who had grown up in Rochester, made a habit of indulging in chocolate custard once a week while living there.

Flavors are limited as the custard is made fresh daily and each batch takes 20 minutes to churn. Vanilla, chocolate, black raspberry, and coffee are some flavors most often available. On this night, Greenberg chooses vanilla, which she shares with her daughter, Susan, who is visiting from Durham, N.C., and has been whisked to Needham to taste her mother’s childhood.

It lives up to the hype. “There was a lot of build up,” says the younger Greenberg, “but it is very, very good.”

Abbott’s Frozen Custard, 934 Great Plain Ave., Needham, 781-444-9908, you can also read the history and other interesting info about Abbott’s at


Posted by: dinerhotline | August 4, 2008

Our friends at Vintage Roadside receive great write-up

I got an email from Jeff Kunkle last week with a link to a newspaper article about Jeff and his wife Kelly Burg. Jeff and Kelly have the Vintage Roadside website and Vintage Roadtrip blog (check out my blogroll). Based out of Portland, Oregon, Jeff and Kelly (are as quoted in the article), engaged in a kind of guerrilla campaign for historic preservation. (I love that quote)!

Anyway, here is the text from Inara Verzemnieks piece in The Oregonian dated Sunday, July 27, 2008….

Gregg Clapp, left, films Jeff Kunkle, center, interviewing Lyle Lilja
about the good old days at the Tik Tok Drive-In.

Tik Tok: The past comes rushing in

Most people look at a city and see what is there, but some people — possessing a more finely tuned connection to history than the rest of us — can look and see what used to be there. The past overlaid on the present, an invisible, vivid landscape.

You know that parking lot at the intersection of Sandy and Burnside? There used to be a drive-in (restaurant) there, open 24 hours a day and the kids parked their cars outside — the El Caminos and the Chevys and Corvettes — and sometimes the kitchen made gooseberry pie, and the manager, he used to tell the girls who worked there (in short little skirts that showed everything but the president) that he needed them to hop up on the counter and change the lights. … He got fired.

“What is it about connecting with the past?” Kelly Burg asks.

She’s got her own answers to this question — and a life built around them — but it’s worth throwing out there to the rest of us, to all of us who drive by and only see the parking lots.

On a recent Saturday, Burg and her husband, Jeff Kunkle, actually were at the intersection of Sandy Boulevard and Burnside, along with a whole lot of other people, eager to conjure memories of the Tik Tok, Portland’s first drive-in and something of an institution from 1938 to 1971 — with its “Time to Eat” sign and giant coffee cup billowing neon steam. Eventually, like so many roadside attractions of that time, it disappeared.

The Portland Foursquare Church now owns the property where the Tik Tok once stood and, together with the Road Knights Car Club, had organized a daylong reunion — complete with classic car show, hot dogs and cotton candy — for anyone who wanted to reminisce. Near the classic car registration area, Burg and Kunkle had set up their booth, an inviting display of T-shirts with intriguing vintage logos, including one featuring the Tik Tok. But selling T-shirts actually was only a small piece of their overall mission.

Really, they were engaged in a kind of guerrilla campaign for historic preservation.

Both had always been drawn to the old, the overlooked, the disappearing. When they went somewhere on vacation, they made a point to drop by the local historical society. They loved taking back roads and staying at old motels. They were particularly fascinated by mom-and-pop businesses from the 1930s to the’60s — the golden age of automobile travel, as Burg puts it: drive-ins, bowling alleys, motor courts, odd roadside shops and displays.

On their travels, she says, “we would find the remains of places,” tantalizing clues to what used to be. “It looked so charming. We would wonder: What happened here?”

Their impulse always was to save what they could. One of their rescues: An A&W Burger family — the giant fiberglass statues that welcomed you to the drive-in chain. They now live in Kunkle and Burg’s backyard, hoisting frosty mugs of root beer and happily eyeing hamburgers for eternity. (“The alternative was a grass backyard,” Burg says. “This is so much better.”)

But what of the buildings, the places already gone? How could you bring them back?

That’s when Burg and Kunkle started thinking about the T-shirts. If they put the logos of these lost business on T-shirts, they had a chance to resurrect them, in a way. They could get people talking about these places again, wondering about them. They would research each one, piece together its history — often spending hours pouring over old microfiche, flipping through old phone books, calling on amateur town historians — so that when people bought a T-shirt, they weren’t just buying a piece of clothing, they were also getting a story.

That was just the starting point: Their secret hope was that all this would get people thinking about historic preservation, people who might not otherwise, people who maybe found the subject intimidating, thought historic preservation only applied to mansions or other fancy places, not the things close to their lives, like neon signs or roller rinks. Maybe they could get people to see history where they hadn’t before.

And like that, what had always been a passion became their life’s focus. They quit their jobs and last August launched Vintage Roadside.

They like events such as the Tik Tok reunion because they get a chance to unearth even more history, to hear people’s firsthand memories.

Jeff Kunkle and Kelly Burg collect memories of the past for their

Their Web site includes detailed histories of their featured mom-and-pop businesses, but they are always eager to add information — the more specific the better. (From the 77 Ranch Tourist Court entry: “While we haven’t been able to track down the exact dates that the 77 Ranch operated, we do have the following fun facts from Dallas City Directories. In 1947 the manager of 77 Ranch Court was Maude Montgomery. In 1948-1949 Howard Hites is listed as the manager. In 1950-1951 Maude Montgomery returned in the role of manager once again. Yes, it does seem like there might be a story here!”)

For the Tik Tok event, they set out a display case of memorabilia in the Vintage Roadside booth, including an old Tik Tok menu (which included creamed waffles, with butter and syrup, for 20 cents) and an ashtray. Next to the case, they left a pen and a notebook, inviting people to record their favorite Tik Tok memories.

“Ate at the Tik Tok and walked over to Scotties to request a song from (local radio DJ) Dick Novak. Announced our engagement over the radio (before we told our folks). 1957.”

It’s hard to describe just how happy Burg and Kunkle seemed, taking all this in, all the people who would drift in to look at T-shirts and end up sharing stories not only about the Tik Tok but other forgotten Portland places: the barns where they stowed the trolley cars, old service stations, boarding houses.

With each T-shirt purchase, Burg handed folks a card letting them know they were eligible for a year’s free membership with the National Historic Trust (which has invited Burg and Kunkle to come speak on a panel at their National Preservation Conference in Oklahoma in October.)

Soon the couple’s friend Greg Clapp arrived. They had been thinking it would be good to videotape some of these conversations — further preservation — and create a documentary series that they could post on Vintage Roadside site.

While Burg held down the booth, Clapp, armed with a video camera, and Kunkle made their way to the old Tik Tok site, now filled with classic cars. It didn’t take them long to find some good stories.

“This was where it all happened,” Lyle Lilja said, standing by his 1951 Oldsmobile. “It was kind of the beginning point of the cruise. People went to the Tik Tok and Jim Dandy’s and Yaw’s, and then back here.” They were all young and broke. “Any money we had, we stuck it into our cars.”

But the greatest discovery came as they were heading back to the booth. There, near the hot dog table, they ran into Dolly Harris, the daughter of one of the Tik Tok’s last owners.

From her handbag, she drew a framed photo of the Tik Tok in 1968.

“I started there when I was 18,” she said. “I never got to work in the kitchen because it was too small. I got to learn to be a soda jerk. We made everything from Suicides to Green Rivers. … We made milkshakes and we made sundaes and we made our own fresh pies from scratch.” She listed them off: raisin cream pie, pumpkin, apple, cherry, gooseberry, peach cream.

“Do you remember the cook?” Kunkle asked.

“Chad was his name, and he was the head chef. And there was Larry the bus boy. … George was our butcher.”

She told them about the time the cook made clam chowder without the clams, her short-lived career as car hop because her mom thought the skirts were too short (even though her dad was the one who picked out all the uniforms).

They talked so long Clapp had to run and get a new battery.

When they were done, Kunkle thanked Harris profusely. “This is such an important part of Portland’s history, and I wanted to share it with as many people as possible,” he said.

Earlier, Burg tried to explain how she answers people when they ask why preserving these sorts of places and the memories around them is important.

“I think for us, a big part of it is roots — roots in the community. With everything new and places being torn down, you lose your connection to the past. And I think that connection is important for stability, for identity.” Which is another way of saying that maybe who we were says a lot about who we are.
Check out Vintage Roadside and its histories at

Posted by: dinerhotline | August 1, 2008

Notes from the Hotline, 8-1-08

I have not been too active this week on the blog as I have been on Vacation from my job. Denise and I have been in and out all week doing different things but I have managed to get to a few places.

Breakfast at the Fish Tale Diner

Saturday we went up to Salisbury, Mass. and had a great breakfast at a diner with one of the most scenic locations anywhere, the Fish Tale Diner. This is the original Agawam Diner built in 1940 for the Galanis family (Worcester Lunch Car No. 762) and was originally operated in Ipswich, Mass. until they replaced it with a larger Worcester Lunch Car (No. 797) in 1947.

The first diner was then redone with new porcelain panels and placed at the intersection of U.S. Rte. 1 and Mass. Rte. 133 in Rowley, Mass. where it operated until 1970 when they moved the current diner (a Fodero diner) in to replace this one. The Galanis’ sold this diner and it was transported up to Brunswick, Maine but reportedly never was set up there when the new people defaulted on the sale and it reverted back to the Galanis’. It came back briefly to Rowley and was stored on an empty lot across Rte. 133 from the current diner until it was resold and placed in Salisbury.

The location in Salisbury is just off U. S. Rte. 1, directly on the banks of the Merrimack River adjacent to a marina/motel complex overlooking Newburyport. The current owners have added an outdoor deck for expanded seating with tables. They do a great business and it can be very relaxing eating inside or out. Certainly a good stop for breakfast or lunch  anytime of year but especially so in the summer.

We also got over to The Lunch Box Diner in Malden, Mass. on Sunday and I hope to have more news on this one shortly.

Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe photo circa 2006

Breakfast at Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe

Thursday morning I went to visit Royal Label Company in Dorchester (a section of Boston). I was employed there for over 8 years before I left for another position 2 and half years ago. I wanted to stop in and see what was going on, it seems like I get to do this once a year. On the way in I decided to stop for breakfast at Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe, a venerable neighborhood institution located on Columbus Avenue in the South End section of Boston for over 80 years. Whenever I go to Charlie’s I cannot resist their “Cape Cod French Toast”. This is regular French Toast with warm fresh cranberry compote drizzled on top. It is delicious!

Tolman Mfg. & Supply Company

On the way back from Royal Label I was bypassing expressway traffic and cutting through South Boston. I decided to finally investigate Tolman Mfg. & Supply Company located at 61 Dorchester Avenue across from the Gillette Company Headquarters. They sell and service Welding Equipment Supplies and Industrial Gases.

Part of the building Tolman is located in is the remains of an old Worcester Lunch Car. It is fairly covered up and almost unrecognizable. If you get up close to it you can see behind the sign that runs along the roof. The old barrel roof of the diner is discerned from this close up view. You can also see the front left corner of the diner (just a piece). The interior is completely gutted but the barrel ceiling is still visible. The end walls are gone as well as the extreme right section of back wall.

Original corner piece, left front elevation

I talked with Brad Bankman, the president of Tolman and he told me that they have been there since 1960. He also said that it had previously operated as the Donut Dugout prior to his company taking the building over. I do not know what the original name of the diner was. An interesting thing I discovered was that the diner had an addition on the right hand end that also was twice as deep as the diner structure. I don’t exactly know what this was but this section has unique “cove ceilings” covered in metal as well as a large skylight. It almost looked like someone was trying to emulate a diner interior on an on-site structure. Brad thought it might have been an old railroad car but I am not so sure.

Inside of building looking down the length of the old diner,
the light fixture is mounted to the barrel ceiling.

Interior of addition on right end of diner with unique cove ceiling
with skylight, now used as office/service desk.

Thanks to Brad Bankman for his taking time out of his busy day to talk with me as well as allowing me to take photos of the interior and exterior of his establishment.

Palace Diner, one of only 2 Pollard Diners in existance.

Biddeford, Maine’s Palace Diner For Sale

I heard from Bob Higgins the other day and he reports that the Palace Diner, a 1920′s vintage Pollard Diner is for sale. The current owner, Kyle Quinn is seeking to sell the business, lock, stock and barrel (roof of course). Here is what Bob said in his email…

The diner is actively for sale by owner Kyle Quinn,
1-207- 332-6001
I have been there a couple of times in the last couple of weeks. The diner has 15 seats and comes with the land it sits on and a few feet of land around it. He appears to be doing some business, but is not open beyond 10:30 am, breakfast only. He has owned the diner for 3 years. Maybe you could place a note on your blog and see if there is any interest.                                                                                                                      Bob Higgins

Consider it posted Bob!

Old postcard of HoJo’s clone, Mary Hartigan’s Famous Restaurant

Newest addition to my postcard collection

I finally broke down and got a decent postcard of a restaurant I remember (although I never ate there). It was from “Mary Hartigan’s Famous Restaurant” (not my words, that is how the back reads). This place was located on Route 1A, Washington Street in Dedham, Mass. hard by the edge of Route 128. I always thought it might have been an ex-Howard Johnsons Restaurant by the looks of it. I was wrong according to some info I have found. In fact there is a possibility that this place actually evolved from a former Dutchland Farms Restaurant which had similar styling to HoJo’s.

The building still exists but is completely encased within a much larger structure since it was Hartigans. It has operated as at least one other restaurant and is now currently became part of an upscale chain called “Finz”. There is another one in Salem, Mass.

Posted by: dinerhotline | July 24, 2008

Notes from the Hotline, 7-24-08

Richard Gutman and Culinary Arts Museum mentioned in TV clip

My friend Dick Gutman was recently featured in an ABC News piece from their network affiliate Channel 6 in Providence, RI. The piece was entitled…..

Things That Just Aren’t There Anymore: The Ever Ready Diner on Charles Street

John Eagan
Story Created: Jul 22, 2008 at 10:56 AM EDT
Story Updated: Jul 23, 2008 at 10:35 AM EDT

They are no ordinary restaurants, they are American classics…we’re talking about the old-fashioned diner. The first diner in Providence was a horse-drawn wagon.  The idea caught on, and through the decades dozens of meals -on-wheels popped up in New England.

But once fast food restaurants came along, many diners failed to compete.  Others like ‘The Ever Ready’ kept buzzing until the street land became too valuable. The once famous local diner on Charles Street finally found a resting place The Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson and Wales where Richard Gutman is giving the old treasure a makeover.  ABC 6 reporter Julie Ruditzky takes us back in time…
Here is a link to the video…..

Co-owner of Milford Diner (Milford, NH) succumbs from injuries sustained in car accident

Milford Diner, photo by Larry Cultrera, 9/29/07

I saw the sad news out of New Hampshire today about the death of Gordon “Sput’’ Maynard, co-owner with Debbie Flerra of the Milford Diner in downtown Milford, NH. Here is the text from the article….

‘Sput’ fought a hard battle
Friends remember Merrimack man who died from injuries

Published: Thursday, Jul. 24, 2008
MILFORD – If Gordon Maynard wasn’t at the Milford Fish Market he was at the Milford Diner, greeting customers with his famous smile. “He loved the restaurant business – the elderly people especially, and they loved him,” said his partner Debbie Flerra. “He would park their cars so they wouldn’t have to walk far.”

Gordon “Sput’’ Maynard, 50, of Merrimack, died Friday at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center after sustaining massive internal injuries in a car accident nearly two weeks ago. He fought until he couldn’t fight any longer, his family said. Karen Walker, who owns Karen’s Kollectibles across the street from the diner, said she knew Maynard as a neighbor. “He had a lot of people who cared about him,” she said. “It’s a tragedy.”

Flerra, who lost her husband to a heart attack 10 years ago, said she is grateful she was able to speak to Maynard for several days before he passed away. Maynard, who co-owned the Milford Diner with Flerra, was one of four people injured in a three-car crash that began when a Subaru Outback hit a Volvo near the Bartlett Street intersection with Concord Street, injuring a Merrimack couple, before speeding off and slamming into Maynard’s Oldsmobile near the Hills Ferry Road intersection. Police believe the driver of the Outback suffered a seizure while at the wheel.

Maynard’s car was struck with such force that he was ejected from the vehicle and police found him lying in the middle of Concord Street. Even after suffering such devastating injuries, Maynard was trying to pick himself up when emergency personnel reached him, a doctor who was at the scene told his family.

“Even after the initial accident, and he was ejected from the car, he was still trying to get up,’’ his daughter, Erika, 19, said. “They told him, ‘No, no, stay down’ but he was still trying to get up, and when I heard that story I said, ‘That’s my Dad.’ ” Maynard was a real-estate appraiser and served for a time on the state board of appraisers.


Posted by: dinerhotline | July 23, 2008

Bridgeport Flyer Diner of Bridgeport, CT demolished

Bridgeport Flyer Diner, photo courtesy of Randy Garbin/Roadside Magazine

The Bridgeport Flyer Diner, a Swingle colonial style diner that replaced a Sterling double-ended streamliner in the 1960′s was demolished this past week according to reports. The diner had been operating under various names for a few years but remained fairly intact will be replaced by a car wash, a gas station and a Dunkin Donuts. The other Bridgeport Flyer Diner in Milford, CT remains in operation so the name will be carried on. Below is a photo of the original diner from 1941.

The “old” Bridgeport Flyer diner in 1941
(courtesy Bridgeport Public Library Historical Collections/Mary Witkowski))

Here is the text from a Connecticut Post Online article from July 18, 2008…..

Landmark Bridgeport diner leveled

Car wash, convenience store coming

BRIDGEPORT — The building that once housed the Bridgeport Flyer Diner — for decades a fixture in the city’s West End — was demolished Friday to make way for a car wash, gas station/convenience store and doughnut shop. The long-neglected structure, near Fairfield Avenue’s intersection with State Street, has been vacant four years.It was the La Carreta Restaurant for the last two years that it was occupied, but from 1942 until about 2002, it was the home of the Bridgeport Flyer Diner. “My grandfather, Anthony Rountos, came from New York with his brother-in-law, and they went up Route 1 and saw that that’s where all the factories were, so that’s where they spotted the diner,” said Dennis Kokenos, who now owns the Bridgeport Flyer Diner in Milford.

“It looked like a train car,” he said of the original structure, which had been altered with different siding and other features over the years. “It’s a shame. I swear to God, tears were in my eyes yesterday when I pulled into the parking lot.” He worked there from 1983 until it closed in 2003 — a year after his mother, Coy Rountos Kokenos, died.

Dennis’ father, Perry Kokenos, married into the business, he said. He added that the opening in 1991 of the McDonald’s restaurant just down the street didn’t affect the diner’s business in the least. The diner was the site of a brazen stickup on Nov. 1, 1980, when three bandits shot and wounded the cook, Lincoln Tirado, and roughed up and robbed a few of the customers. One of the gunmen was armed with a double-barreled shotgun. Tirado was shot when he tried to throw a kitchen knife at one of the thieves.

The Milford Flyer diner — in the city’s Devon section — opened in 1974, and it remains a thriving business. “That was a family place — my mother was in the front all the time,” Kokenos said. “So when she died, we tried to run it with an outside manager, but it just didn’t work. It was a nice stretch that we had in Bridgeport. I really do miss it, but I had to make a decision.”

The new owner, Sohan Johnson, said that he purchased the parcel about a year ago. “It’s going to be a car wash, a gas station, a Dunkin’ Donuts outlet and a convenience store,” he said, adding that it should be open at some point next year. Johnson was at the site Friday morning to speak with Craig Capozziello of Industrial Wrecking, his giant Caterpillar power shovel at the ready to knock down the structure. Johnson wanted Capozziello to set aside some of the structural steel from the old building. Before Johnson arrived, Capozziello waited in his red pickup truck. “I wish he would come. I could have had the thing down by now,” he said. “We’ve been tearing down buildings for a hundred years.”

It looks like after months of uncertainty the Sunrise Diner, a late 1940′s Jerry O’Mahony diner located in Jim Thorpe, PA will be saved after all. At one point a few months ago, I reported a news story I found on-line about the possibility that this diner was going to go to Montpelier, VT. But the story turned out to be premature and nothing came of it.

Well now it looks like Steve Harwin of Diversified Diners (Cleveland, OH) has come to the diner’s rescue and has transported the diner to his company yard in Cleveland. The following is a piece I saw this morning from’s website reporting the move.

Landmark Diner Leaving Jim Thorpe

Posted: July 17, 2008 04:24 PM EDT
Last Updated: July 17, 2008 05:18 PM EDT

By Bob Reynolds

A diner that has been a landmark in Carbon County for more than 50 years  will soon be gone. Two years ago the Sunrise Diner in Jim Thorpe was in full operation.  Thursday workers were jacking it up from its foundation. It’s going to rolled onto a truck and hauled away.
The reason they didn’t bring in a crane and lift it onto the truck is that diner is weak and lifting it could split it like an egg, according to the former owner. “It’s going to be saved. That’s what we wanted in the beginning,” said former owner Noel Behn. He had hoped to sell it to someone in the area but no one wanted it, even when it was free.

“We tried to give it away to the vo-tech or for kids to learn tin smithing or whatever they wanted to do with it but they had no use for it. We had people interested in it but transportation was always a problem,” Behn added. There are memories there.  Ed Walck used to eat there when he returned from the service more than 50 years ago. “Steve had it. It was called Steve’s down there and then it changed hands I don’t know how many times after that,” Walck recalled.

Some said the landmark will be missed. “A real relaxed atmosphere where everybody knew everybody and you don’t find that down-to-earth restaurant,” said Leslie Solt of Mahoning Township. The diner will get new life. It will be taken to Ohio, refurbished, sold and grace another community.

Here is a link to the website where you can see some video…

I have written about this diner before, not on the blog but back when Diner Hotline was in print form for the Society for Commercial Archeology’s Journal Magazine. The Big Dig Diner, a 1940′s vintage Silk City Diner was located in the Seaport District of Boston for just over 10 years. It was used as a training facility for the Log School. They trained at-risk youth to work in a food service environment and were open maybe 3 days a week for a few years. The program eventually left the diner (I don’t know if they still exist) and the building sat idle for quite some time. The city of Boston who owned the property eventually wanted to use the site for something else.

Along came Steve Harwin of Cleveland’s Diversified Diners to the rescue. Steve knew this diner all too well as it was he who had rehabbed it back in the 1990′s and sold it to the Log School people. He had bought the diner and moved it from it’s last operating location on U.S. Route 22 in Ono, PA where it was known as the Windmill Diner. It had been closed as a diner for a few years at that time and had briefly been used by a construction company as an office if I remember correctly. It is believed that it originally operated as the Exton Diner in Exton, PA before being transported to Ono.

Steve moved the diner out of Boston last year and has found a new owner, Denise Shutek who has been wanting to buy a diner for years. Here is the text from a report off the website talking about the upcoming transition for this well travelled diner.

Big Dig Diner comes to town

CLEVELAND — Diners were invented in America and in some areas, they are historical landmarks. One of those landmarks is here in Cleveland. A local man restores diners right here in Cleveland and transports them all across the country. Steve Harwin specializes in rescuing diners that are on death row.

One such resurrection project he saved from the Big Dig in Massachusetts. When the tunnel there was closed for repairs, the diner was set to be demolished. “Nobody wanted it, which is surprising. They called me,” Harwin said. “I sent my riggers out. I didn’t even look at it. I knew it well enough.” The Big Dig Diner was the first diner he has ever restored. So, Harwin rescued it a second time.

The first time he bought it from a small town in Pennsylvania. It was made in the 1940′s in New Jersey. It will soon find a new home in Grafton. Nancy’s Diner will officially have the Big Dig Diner on Monday. Owner Denise Shutek is ready. “I have car hop trays from the 50s,” she said. “I have all kinds of stuff. I have people coming in now to give me records.”

For years, Shutek has been wanting to buy a diner and because of Harwin’s love for them she now can. Harwin said folks love for the classic’s is a natural draw. “You park a diner on any highway and people would see it and they would be drawn into it.” Harwin is currently the only man in the world that restores dying diners.

Here is a link to the piece with video footage…

© 2008 WKYC-TV

Posted by: dinerhotline | July 14, 2008

New Rochelle’s Thru-way Diner closes

Sunday, July 13th was a sad day for loyal customers as well as the owners and waitstaff of the Thru-way Diner. A large 1990 vintage DeRaffele diner located just off Interstate 95 in New Rochelle, NY, this diner and it’s earlier incarnations served many people over the years. In the 1980′s I recall seeing the diner this one replaced (although I never stopped in or photographed it) from the highway, it was an early 1960′s DeRaffele diner with a zig-zag roof. The current diner was of the early to late 90′s style DeRaffele built with a lot of dark green glass for the body and parapet and large plate glass windows all the way around.

Denise and I stopped at the Thru-way Diner for a coffee and desert break around 11 years ago on the way back from Wildwood, NJ. I really liked the place and knew that it was a local landmark. Unfortunately, the diner is closing because the owners decided to sell the property to the Wallgreens Pharmacy chain. Another case where money talks. There was a nice article online today written by Ken Valenti from

Here is the text from that story….

Thru-way Diner serves last meal

NEW ROCHELLE – On its final day, the Thru-Way Diner bustled so busily, with waitresses shuttling plates of eggs and pouring cups of coffee, that the regulars who grew up there could almost forget that the icon was about to close.

But the servers and the patrons knew – or learned when they arrived – that they were ordering their last meals yesterday at the dining institution that served food near Interstate 95 for more than a half-century. It’s to be replaced by a Walgreens drugstore.

“I’ve been crying all day,” waitress Diane Potente, 60, said in the afternoon. From a pocket in her uniform, she pulled a card, still in its envelope, that she had gotten from a customer. Now, she’ll work at the Larchmont Diner, and customers will find meals there or at other eateries.

“But there ain’t nothing like the Thru-Way Diner,” she said. The Thru-Way was a place for churchgoers to socialize after worshipping, a haven for late-night revelers who would swallow coffee after leaving the bars, and a reasonably priced eatery for families dining out. It’s where friends who called themselves the Southside Boys would come after racing their muscle cars, where waitress Brenda Mauro brought her two daughters in the 1970s to do their homework and be doted on by other waitresses. It’s the first place where Army veterans Robert Savaideo and Lou Vaccaro stopped after returning from the war in Vietnam. Vaccaro came then with enough family members to fill a section of the place.

“I was still in uniform,” he said yesterday at the diner. Months ago, when word got around that the diner would close, fans rallied to save it. About 5,000 people signed a petition to City Hall, and hundreds joined group Save the Thru-Way Diner. But the sisters who owned the diner, Donna Vaccari and Joanne Zappavigna, signed a contract to lease it to the Walgreens developer after their father, Don Zappavigna, the original owner, died in 1996. The sisters did not talk publicly about why they made the deal. They were not available for comment yesterday.

Even some of the youngest patrons questioned the move. “They do great stuff and they make a lot of money,” said Alexa Garcia, 7, who ate with her family at the diner yesterday. “There’s a CVS around here, and now they’re going to make a Walgreens? Why should they do that?” Sam Mauro, no relation to Brenda Mauro, ate at the diner as a child with his family and, later, as a teenager with his buddies, including Savaideo and Vaccaro. They called themselves the Southside Boys. When Mauro married a neighborhood girl and they had children, they all ate at the Thru-Way. Now 60, he was still coming about every month and a half with his old friends.

The DeRaffele-designed building where they dined yesterday, with polished stone and windows tinted and slanted, is at least the third incarnation of the diner at 810 Main St. Mauro remembered the building before the current one was put up in 1991.  “It was all orange and white inside,” he remembered. “The waitresses wore orange and white.” Brenda Mauro said she wore that attire, jokingly called the “creamsicle uniform.”
“I still have mine,” said the New Rochelle resident who is no longer a waitress. “I wear it on Halloween.”

She remembered serving food before they used computers. For the meal she ordered yesterday, two eggs over easy with rye toast, she would have called out, “Fry 21 over, whiskey down.” She held countless memories, like one of the time in the 1970s when late-night regulars put up $20 for her to throw a pie at a fellow waitress, and for the other waitress to return fire with a cake. They did it. Yesterday, people wrote their sentiments on sheets of paper taped up by the entrance. One note read: “Yankee Stadium + the Thruway Diner in the same year!! Just shoot me now!!” By 4 p.m., the door was locked. Sam Mauro, Savaideo and Vaccaro were among the last ones there. “It’s official,” Mauro said. “What are you going to do? We all split the last apple turnover they had in the case.”

Posted by: dinerhotline | July 9, 2008

The Road Island Diner opens in Utah

Photo Copyright 2008 by Kenny Gregrich – Tooele, Utah

I’m a little late in posting this news but I am happy to announce that Keith Walker has opened the Road Island Diner in Oakley, Utah the weekend of June 28-29, 2008. After a year or so of a painstakingly complete top-to-bottom restoration this diner looks like it just came out of the Jerry O’Mahony factory!  From the reports I’ve read, people were happy with the food and service. I want to extend my congratulations to Keith and his crew for a job well done! I hope to someday check out the place myself.

Thanks to Kenny Gregrich for letting me use one of his photos from the opening weekend. If you want to see more of his photos, check out his flickr site at ….

I did get a comment from Maud and Bob Thurman who tried to visit the diner earlier this week. They live in the Salt Lake City area and apparently took the trip to check out the diner with out calling beforehand to find out their hours of operation. They got there and found out that the diner was closed Monday & Tuesday! I passed their message to Keith and I would always warn anyone that if you are planning to visit a diner (or any other type of business) whether you live in the next town or one or two hours away, it is best to call ahead to make sure they will be open. That way you won’t be disappointed or waste a trip.

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