Marking 38 years of documenting Diners with my photographs

bypass-diner_11-29-1980
My first attempt at photographing a diner. In this case, the By-Pass Diner of Harrisburg, PA – November 29, 1980

It is still amazing to me that the photo featured above would ever snowball into hundreds if not thousands of photos over a span of 38 years (and that’s just counting the diner photos). Truth be told, this was not my first 35mm photo as I had taken other scenic & miscellaneous shots in the 3 or 4 months prior to this one.  But the above photo represents various forces that had finally coalesced into a 38 year personal crusade to document not only the American Diner, but other roadside buildings and businesses before they disappeared.

To this day I will tell you that I am not a technically trained photographer, I still basically employ a point and shoot kind of approach. But I can say that I am a camera geek and own many cameras. From a collection of Kodak Brownies and Instamatics, as well as five or six 35mm film cameras and close to a half dozen digital cameras. This also is curious because I can recall my feelings were quite ambivalent about photography back in the mid-to late 1970s.

These feelings toward photography started to change after meeting my long-time friend and travel companion, Steve Repucci. Our paths crossed toward the end of 1976 when I started a new job at Analogic Corporation, a company I had previously worked for briefly when I was still in High School in the Spring of 1970. We did not connect right away as we were in different departments. In fact I first became friendly with Steve’s brother Scott (who also was employed there) before I eventually socialized with Steve.

Steve and I had bonded a little at work thru passing conversations in the coming months of 1977 into early 1978. This bond was sealed further during an impromptu  camping trip to Lake George, NY on June 24, 1978. We found out that we were kindred spirits who enjoyed taking road trips, etc. I learned that Steve had been an avid photographer using 35mm cameras since his time in the U.S. Air Force during the early 1970s. By 1980, I had seen quite a lot of his photographs and was totally inspired to get into it myself.

So by the Summer of 1980 I had heard that a friend was selling a used 35mm Mamiya 1000 DTL, (which coincidentally was Steve Repucci’s first 35mm camera). I actually went and bought the camera with my older brother Steve and we shared it for about 1/2 a year before I sold him my half and got a new camera. The Mamiya was the camera I used for all my diner photos from November 29, 1980 into the Spring of 1981 when I got the first of two Chinon 35mm cameras. I later graduated to owning two Pentax 35mm cameras, the last one was my go-to camera until 2008.

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A Mamiya 1000DTL similar to my first 35mm camera .

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A photo of yours truly standing in Medford Square (Medford, Mass.)
Possibly the only photo showing me with the Mamiya 1000 DTL 35mm SLR.
(1981 Photo by Joe Fortunato)

Since that first photo of the By-Pass Diner, I have gone on to document over 860 diners, most are factory-built classic diners while others were home-made or on-site establishments. I have photographed some old neon signs and various roadside buildings as well.

I started to experiment with digital photography circa 2000 or so while continuing with film cameras. Gradually I was taking more and more digital shots for a few years until the last roll of film came out of the Pentax with photos from 2005 thru 2008. I realized that it was not worth using the film cameras anymore and decided to make the switch totally when I bought the Pentax K200 Digital SLR at that point.

This brings me to 2018 and I now carry 3 digital cameras in my bag. The Pentax K200 DSLR, a Nikon Coolpix P7800 and the newest – a Olympus E-PL29. This last one is a brand-new retro version of an Olympus PEN model that was very popular for years, starting in 1959. I have yet to shoot any diners with this one as I have had a skin ulcer on my left foot since the end of July which has kept me in a cast. When the foot is healed I hope to get back out and take some photos.

Also, in the last 2 years or so I have been diligently scanning all of my 35mm slides and prints to create a digital archive. I have completed the slides and am now slogging thru the prints. The prints take more time to scan, clean and enhance. It helps to have patience to do this because it is very gratifying to see the finished image. This process has made me appreciate the early diner photos even more. I am pleasantly surprised at how decent a lot of these shots actually are. The following images are some of my early favorites….

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Collin’s Diner – Canaan, Connecticut
Photo from October 3, 1982

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Hightstown Diner – Hightstown, New Jersey
Photo from May 31, 1982

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Norm’s Diner – Groton, Connecticut
Photo from September 18, 1982

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Ruby’s Silver Diner – Schenectady, New York
Photo from October 2, 1982

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Salem Diner – Salem, Massachusetts
Photo from May, 1982

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Tom Sawyer Diner – Allentown, Pennsylvania
Photo from February 26, 1982

11th Anniversary for Diner Hotline blog

Well, another year has rolled around. October 31st marks the 11th year this blog has been up and running. Granted, I have not posted much for most of this year as I have been feverishly scanning the photo archives, 35mm slides and prints (this scanning process started in earnest in the last year and a half).  I started shooting 35mm photos in the summer of 1980 and documented the first diner on November 29, 1980. The slides are all scanned (diner & non-diner shots) effectively covering a span of 35 years, (I switched from 35mm print film to slide film circa March of 1983).

Most Diner Hotline readers know, but for those who do not, my obsession with diners started  when I was very young. I had been very observant as a child, whenever we were going on errands around town or just little road trips in and around the Bay State, I always noticed places along the roadside. Diners seem to always catch my eye and in the late 1950s into the early 1960s, there were still plenty of them here in New England. The seed of knowledge was planted when I was approximately 5 or 6 years old when I asked my dad about this building we used to pass on Mystic Avenue in South Medford near the Somerville town line.

It was a blue colored building with a rounded roof that featured “Old English” lettering on it that said Star (left side of the center entrance) and Lite (to the right of the entrance). My question to my dad was, is that a railroad car? He answered no, it is a restaurant called a diner. He went on to explain that diners were built in factories and were designed to resemble railroad cars. The Star Lite Diner was a 1948 vintage Worcester Lunch Car and a huge amount of the diners in our area looked similar to the Star Lite as Worcester Lunch Car Company was the local diner builder.

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There is only one photo that exists of the Star Lite Diner
the above is my colorized version. Note: the trim along the
roof and overhang should actually be yellow…

So basically my obsession was intact very early and I have memories of eating at quite a few diners when I was a kid including the Star Lite, Bobbie’s Diner and Carroll’s Colonial Diner, all in my hometown of Medford as well as others in the area. In fact I hung out at Carroll’s for a few years after graduating from high school in 1979. The diner was a large “L” shaped structure with huge windows and an additional dining room addition that was open 24-7 through the 1970s.

After purchasing my first “new” vehicle (as opposed to a used vehicle), a 1979 Chevy van, I was able to increase the area of my own little road trips without the worry of a vehicle breakdown. I started going on Sunday morning road trips with my good friend Steve Repucci which always started at a diner, originally Genia’s Diner in North Woburn, Mass. We eventually decided to start visiting other diners that we either knew about or just drove in search of a diner thus determining the direction to drive in.

The late 1970s saw the publication of two watershed books on Diners. The first was the 1978 Diners by artist John Baeder. This featured paintings and sketches  in color and black & white along with some wonderful text in John Baeder’s distinctive style of story telling.

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The second book was American Diner by Richard Gutman and Elliot Kaufman (in collaboration with David Slovic) published in 1979. This became the first book ever to delve into the history of diners.

American-Diner

In 1980, another book was published called Diners of The Northeast by Donald Kaplan and Alan Bellink. This was a guide to a selection of diners in New Jersey, New York and New England. This was actually the first book that I bought and it became the catalyst that sparked my interest in diners to a fever pitch.

Diners-of-Northeast

The diner obsession lead to my photographing over 860 diners in almost 38 years. I became a member of the Society for Commercial Archeology (SCA) in 1981 which eventually lead to me contributing to the SCA publications in the form of the first ever regular column called Diner Hotline (1989-2007). I retired the SCA Diner Hotline column in 2007 and began the Diner Hotline weblog as stated on October 31, 2007. The blog also lead to the publishing of my own two books, Classic Diners of Massachusetts (2011) and New Hampshire Diners, Classic Granite State Eateries (2014).

I hope to be increasing the amount of blog posts soon as the digital archive of my photos and slides are now closer to completion.

Singer-Songwriter to do East Coast Diner Tour to promote album.

I recently heard from Alexi Paraschos, a self described soul/pop artist currently living in Philadelphia. Hailing originally from the Boston suburb of Newton, (he graduated Newton North High School, 2005) and attended Tufts University 2009. Prior to moving to Philly, he has spent most of his life in the Boston area. Alexi began writing songs when he was eleven years old.

Alexi told me that since moving to Philly, he has connected with some great producers and is about to release his next album, entitled “25/8”. The idea behind 25/8 is a step beyond 24/7–being passionate about someone or something you believe in. That was how he ended up coming up with the unique idea to promote the album. Basically he plans to travel around the East Coast on a sort of “Diner Tour”. He goes on to say that he sees diners as places that are usually open around the clock, helping people to refuel. Plus, he thought, who wouldn’t enjoy listening to some soulful music at 11:30 at night while eating some bacon and eggs!

It was also, in researching the idea that he came across the profound connection that diners have to Greek Americans. He says being the son of a proud Greek immigrant father, I felt like I was the perfect person to pull off this idea.

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Alexi Paraschos, publicity photo courtesy of his website

During our conversation, Alexi mentioned that growing up in Newton, he frequented the Knotty Pine Lunch in the Auburndale section of that city. The Knotty Pine, although not a factory built diner is a great local restaurant with the menu, ambiance and service one typically associates with a great neighborhood diner.

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The Knotty Pine Lunch located at 295 Auburn St, in the Auburndale
section of Newton. Photo by Larry Cultrera

I asked Alexi what diners he frequented in Philly and he told me that “I’ve gone to a bunch of the diners here–Oregon Diner, Silk City Diner (which is actually one of the most popular live music spots in the city), the Melrose Diner, and a couple of the newer, high end diners City Diner and Continental Diner”.  He also mentioned he does make it back to Boston fairly often and was actually just in Boston on Monday night, February 19th at Victoria’s Diner doing a “test show” for the tour. He included a short video of part of his performance at the Vic here… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKdqoqIxGC4&feature=youtu.be

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Victoria’s Diner in Boston. Photo by Larry Cultrera

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Alexi Paraschos publicity photo, courtesy of his website

For more info, Alexi has a YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/user/alexisongs as well as his website https://www.alexisongs.com/ .

Alexi has also got a Kickstarter fund going on right now to help finance the East Coast Diner Tour that he will embark on this coming June… if anyone is interested in helping him out, check out this video…

I hope to catch his Diner Tour Kick-off show at Victoria’s Diner, Friday, June 1, 2018.

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Alexi Paraschos, publicity photo from his website

 

37 years down the road…

It is still hard to even wrap my brain around the fact that I took my very first “Diner” photograph 37 years ago on November 29, 1980! Although my interest in Diners goes back to the 1950s when I was around 5 or 6 years old, the groundwork for this first “Diner” photo op was a few months in the making. I had purchased a used 35mm camera in the summer of 1980 and started taking some scenic photos after being inspired by my pal Steve Repucci.

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The Bypass Diner, Herr Street in Harrisburg, PA. The first “Diner”
photograph featuring my blue 1979 Chevy Van parked in front!

To backtrack a little, Steve and I crossed paths after I had started a new job in September of 1976 at Analogic Corporation in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Steve had been employed there since 1974. We became acquainted through our shared employment between 1976 and all thru 1977, but did not socialize much outside of work until June 24, 1978, when we had gone on a camping trip to the Lake George, NY area for a weekend.

After that weekend, we became fast friends and I soon learned of Steve’s passion for 35mm photography! At that time I had always had a Kodak Instamatic camera around just for taking snapshots. I was not an avid photographer at all. But seeing some of the photos that Steve shot inspired me to look at photography seriously as a new hobby.

In April of 1979, another critical high point came when I purchased my first brand-new vehicle, a 1979 Chevy Van. From 1971 until that April, I had always owned used vehicles which got me around adequately enough, but there was always that looming cloud of possible mechanical problems which could hinder long distance travel. In purchasing the new van, this cloud had finally dissipated! In fact during that year, Steve and I had started our weekly Sunday morning short road trips, usually stopping for breakfast at local diners. This got our heads wrapped around the idea of tailoring the Sunday morning ride destinations either driving to already known diners to just flat out exploring to find new places to have breakfast.

So with the purchase of the new van in 1979, this allowed me the opportunity to increase the scope of my traveling. And then with the subsequent purchase of my first 35mm camera, the stage was set that led me to that first “Diner” photo! September of 1980, Steve had realized his plans of moving to Harrisburg, PA for a change of scene. A good friend of his from the U.S. Air Force, Ed Womer, lived there and gave Steve the incentive to relocate.

I was one of the people who helped in getting Steve moved (owning a van back then, I was always being asked to help people move). So this was my first time traveling to Pennsylvania. On that initial trip, I noticed a few diners while I was there, although I do not recall eating in any on that trip. It was the next time down over the long Thanksgiving Day weekend when I took that first shot of the Bypass Diner which was a mile or so from where Steve and Ed had their shared apartment. Nowadays, the Bypass Diner still exists although it has been operated as the American Dream Diner for many years.

Now that 37 years have elapsed and I have photographed over 860 diners in that time. I can’t help but think back on this personal trip, especially since I have been scanning all my slides and photos in earnest for the last 2 and 1/2 years, (I stopped using 35mm film and went fully digital in 2008). With this scanning project, I am building up my digital archive of photos. It seems that whenever I scan any particular photo, be that of a diner or any other miscellaneous subject, I tend to relive those days.

But really, it all started when I was a kid, living in Medford, Massachusetts. My dad Sebastian “Sam” Cultrera loved diners and was the guy who first told me about them. He brought me out to breakfast to places like the Star Lite Diner, on Mystic Ave. in Medford…

Star-5
The one and only photo of the Star Lite Diner known to exist.
This is my colorized version (using Photoshop).

The Star Lite was fairly close to my family’s meat market and I also used to ride the delivery bike from the store down to the diner for lunch. I recall playing tunes on the juke box and kibitzing with the owner Jim and his son Richie. They closed for their usual 2 week vacation in the summer of 1968 but unfortunately never reopened. The diner reportedly was moved to a salvage yard in nearby Chelsea, Massachusetts.

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My large scale scratch-built model of the Star Lite Diner.

We also frequented Bobbie’s Diner, also located on Mystic Ave. in Medford. My dad actually supplied hamburger meat and Italian Sausage to Bobbie’s Diner from our family meat market, the Blue Eagle Market.

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My one and only photo of Bobbie’s Diner, not long before it
was demolished.

Bobbie's-2_July-1981
I was driving by one morning and saw that the diner had been
dismantled and placed in a dumpster.

Bobbie's-3_July-1981
The next day it was almost completely gone…

Later, when I became friends with David Hebb, he gave me one of his definitive photos of Bobbie’s Diner for my collection…

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David Hebb’s photo of Bobbie’s Diner from circa 1980 or so.

I have since learned a bit of the history of this diner and that it was located prior to World War II in Haines Square a commercial center just off the Fellsway in Medford.
It was originally known as Jack’s Diner. The family that owned it moved it in the early 1940s to the yard adjacent to their home for a few years before relocating it to Mystic Avenue where it again operated as Jack’s before being sold.

Jack's
Jack’s Diner being moved from Haines Square.

The last diner to operate in Medford was Carroll’s Colonial Dining Car, a circa 1961 vintage Swingle Diner. This replaced 2 earlier diners at its location on Main Street. I recall my family going for breakfast on Easter morning after church for a couple of years when this diner was brand new. Later, after graduating from high school, Carroll’s became the go-to hang out for my friends and I for quite a few years.

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A night-time photo I shot in the winter of 1982

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Carroll’s Diner, from a photo I shot in 1983.

Carroll’s closed in 1986 and was demolished to make way for a new office building. More recently the Carroll family opened a new restaurant a couple of blocks away just off Medford Square called Carroll’s Bar & Grill.

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Carroll’s Bar & Grill on Main Street in Medford Square.
May 5, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

When I started this trip 37 years ago, little did I know that it would eventually lead to me writing this blog as well as 2 books. I want to give a shout-out to all the friends I have made during this journey, chief among them, Richard J.S. Gutman, John Baeder, David Hebb and all the diner owners I have come to know personally. I wonder what the next decade or two might have in store???

 

 

10 years of Blogging – Diner Hotline style!

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I know I have been largely absent from blogging this past year. This has been to my on-going project of scanning all of my 35mm slides (diners and other things, etc.) as well as another personal project I volunteered for last year. The other project involved creating a 100th Anniversary book for my local Catholic church which is winding down at this point and I hope to get it to the printer in the next 2 weeks. I have been extremely active on Facebook and even created a new page called got diners? This page is made up of a good amount of output from the scanning of my diner photos from the last 2 years.

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you can find this page at… https://www.facebook.com/got.diners/

But I could not ignore the fact that today is October 31st, a milestone for me! It has been 10 years since Diner Hotline weblog made its debut! I hope to start regular blog posts again with this being the first of more to come.

HAPPY DINERING!

Today marks 36 years since shooting my first “Diner” photograph!

November 29, 1980 is a very significant date in my life. I was visiting my pal Steve Repucci in Harrisburg, PA on the long Thanksgiving Day weekend. We had moved Steve down to Harrisburg on the previous Labor Day Weekend, which happened to be my first trip to that city and Pennsylvania as well. On the previous visit I noticed there were quite a few diners although I do not recall eating at one then. So this Thanksgiving trip was purely more of a pleasure trip. We arrived on the Friday after Thanksgiving (November 28th) and probably mellowed out after the 8 (or more) hour trip, which had been very tiring due to the heavy fog we encountered on I-81 between Scranton and Harrisburg. The next morning we drove over to the Bypass Diner which was fairly close to where Steve lived. I am not sure when I actually took this first tentative photo of the diner but am inclined to think it was after we had breakfast.

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The Bypass Diner, Herr Street, Harrisburg, PA
November 29, 1980 photo by Larry Cultrera

With this one photo, I started a 36 year trek that has continued for many miles and quite a few vehicles. In the process, I have made countless friends along the way and by my estimate photographed over 860 diners! This process eventually included the creation of my long running regular column for the Society for Commercial Archeology Journal magazine (Diner Hotline) and this blog of the same name after I retired the column. The blog led me to the authoring of my two books… Classic Diners of Massachusetts and New Hampshire Diners, Classic Granite State Eateries, both published by The History Press.  I am currently attempting to scan all the 35mm prints and slides of diners I shot from November of 1980 until 2008 when I stopped using 35mm film and went totally digital with the purchase of my Pentax digital SLR.

New Hampshire’s Mary Ann’s Diner – three locations – great food and service!

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Roadside sign for Mary Ann’s Diner, Salem, NH.
August 28, 2016 photo by Larry Cultrera

36 years ago (November 29, 1980), when I first started documenting diners with my photos, I was pretty much a “Diner Snob”. By this I mean that I wanted  to ONLY take photos of “real diners”, not what I considered “fake diners” – AKA on-site built ones. They had to be the classic prefabricated railroad car styled buildings that those of us in the northeast grew up with. I certainly gravitated to the older ones built by Worcester Lunch Car Company, also Sterling diners built by J.B. Judkins and representatives from the mid-Atlantic region like Jerry O’Mahony, Fodero and DeRaffele along with the occasional Silk City and Paramount diners! At first I also for the most part resisted photographing the “newer styles” of factory-built diners that came after 1960. But as my previous post has shown I did manage to get some of the local ones here in Massachusetts.

Mary Ann’s Diner – Derry, NH

As time progressed, I modified my feelings toward the newer style of diners when I got a clearer view of the big picture and realized that these too were a huge part of diner history, I started documenting more of those and appreciated them for what they represented, although in hindsight, I wish I had not passed by a number of them in the early days without shooting a photo or two. I had also relaxed my standards by the end of the 1990s and started including diners that were built on-site or into existing commercial structures, mostly because they represented in spirit, a true diner experience enhanced by good food, service and atmosphere.

This brings me to my subject of this post – Mary Ann’s Diners of New Hampshire. Starting out in 1989 with the downtown Derry location and later expansion to include the locations in Windham (2013) and very recently Salem (2016). This little chain is now a contender along with the three (soon to be four) locations of The Red Arrow Diner and the offerings from the Common Man family of restaurants that include the Tilt’n Diner, Route 104 Diner, Airport Diner and the two Hi-Way Diners, which are helping to make the Granite State a true “diner destination”.

I had first caught wind of Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry sometime in the early 2000s, probably from seeing it on the locally produced Phantom Gourmet television show. I knew from what I had seen, that this new diner was located in an on-site commercial building. I also saw that the owners (the Andreoli family) had attempted the retro look with kitschy 1950s nostalgia decorating the interior as well as the waitresses wearing poodle skirts, etc. Now I must confess that this has historically been a “turn-off” for me personally as I firmly believe that a good diner should not have to resort to kitsch to attract customers. Whether it is in a factory-built model or an on-site “wanna be”, the restaurant only needs to have good food and service, along with a friendly staff to flourish. The atmosphere should grow and be enhanced from these qualities and the regular clientele will appreciate it and help to create the true “diner feeling” or vibe that would make that diner the “go-to” place in town!

That being said, I want to go on to say that even though all three of the Mary Ann’s Diners have this element of kitsch to their interior decor, in this case it does not hurt so much because the excellent food, service and hospitality helps to enrich the atmosphere, making it a great diner experience which more than makes up for these retro decorations that in other places might be a distraction.

According to my “Diner Log” database, I made my first visit to Mary Ann’s in Derry on March 2, 2002. I have since learned that they may have previously operated at a nearby location prior to inhabiting this store front at 28 East Broadway. This existing commercial building was decorated on the outside with a neon “Mary Ann’s” sign topped with three back-lit signs – the center one featured cartoon figure of Mary Ann holding a “Coke” bottle (the restaurant’s logo) which was flanked on the left side by a “drink” sign and on the right by a Coca Cola” sign. Above the windows on either side of the front door were two other back-lit signs, “diner” on the left and “restaurant” on the right. The only other decorations that gave a nod to the retro restaurant on the inside were the “red & white” checkerboard design under the windows and some mirror finish quilted stainless steel on either side of the front door. The two following photos show it from that visit.

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Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry, NH. March 2, 2002 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry, NH. March 2, 2002 photo by Larry Cultrera

At that time the interior featured (and still does) a lot of kitschy 1950s memorabilia, some formica surfaces as well as ceramic tile and stainless steel trim and panels. It already had a counter and stools along with many tables & chairs as well as booth seating. Between that first visit to Mary Ann’s and my second one, I had seen a unique transformation taking place in Amherst, NH when an existing structure that had housed two or three restaurants previously was being rehabbed to look like a post modern retro diner. It was obvious that the company doing the on-site work were well versed in building and renovating diners. The materials and design elements told me this. Also, one of the workers who was there told me the contractor was based in New Jersey. Unfortunately, I did not get the name of this contractor at that time. Suffice to say, this place then known as the Timeless Diner was going to be a showplace.

Fast forward to 2004 and my next visit to Mary Ann’s in Derry. I guess I did not recall what the exterior looked like from the first visit and failed to notice a change on the outside when I got there. Anyway, once I walked in and sat at the counter, I looked around the interior and saw some changes that immediately caught my eye. There were some elements added to the interior that I knew had not been there before. Chief among the changes that were noticeable to me was the new “cove” ceiling over the back-bar area behind the counter. I asked the waitress who was serving me (I believe it was Mary Ann Andreoli herself) if they had had work/updating done on the place and she affirmed this fact. I then asked if it was the same company that did the Timeless Diner and she said an emphatic yes! The “cove” ceiling was a dead giveaway as it was pretty identical to the one at the Timeless Diner. The next two photos were taken in anticipation of writing my New Hampshire Diners book…

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Interior of Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry. August 3, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Interior of Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry. August 3, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

The changes were not only on the interior but also the front facade got a newer treatment under the windows with some vertically fluted blue enameled panels with stainless steel trim! Another change happened to the rear of the building which had previously been just a brick wall and back entrance from the rear parking lot. The contractor added on a post modern entryway along with a small dining room addition that would be used for overflow seating and private functions. That whole rear facade was covered in horizontal red enameled panels alternating with stainless stripes. There were also stainless steel panels along with some blue vertical elements and a red roof topper, effectively giving the back of the building a completely different look than the front. Now historically, I seemed to always stop there for breakfast and never managed to get really good photos when I was there early in the morning. That of course didn’t stop me from trying! The next photos were from a visit in February 24, 2008 which were not half bad considering it was not the perfect light…

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Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry, NH. February 24, 2008 photo by Larry Cultrera
showing the redone front facade.

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Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry, NH. February 24, 2008 photo by Larry Cultrera
showing the redone rear facade.

These were decent photos (acceptable but not perfect) but when I was taking photos for the book in 2013 and 2014, I was determined to get better ones. Well this happened on a trip back from the Lakes Region south of the White Mountains. We were heading home in the mid-afternoon and I detoured off the highway between 2:45 and 3:00 pm to see what the place looked like. Also, I was counting on the fact that the diner had closed for the  day at 2:00 pm making it almost certain the there were no vehicles blocking the shots! When we got there I was immediately excited to see the place in perfect light and finally got the definitive photos I had been looking for!

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Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry, NH. April 19, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera
This one ended up on the cover of my New Hampshire Diners book!

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Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry, NH. April 19, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera
Rear view of the diner…

While researching for the NH Diners book, I knew that I would be including Mary Ann’s Diner as well as Joey’s Diner (formerly the Timeless Diner) in my chapter on “On-site and Homemade Diners”! The one important (at least to me) piece of information I was missing for both of these places was the name of the company that did the retro renovations to them. I knew the current owner of Joey’s might not know and had no luck after multiple attempts in getting in touch with Bill Andreoli Sr. of Mary Ann’s (who certainly would know) either.

So, armed with a suggestion from a friend, I decided to do and end run and try to find out from a different direction. I finally contacted Sharon M. Jensen, the Department of Public Works executive secretary for the Town of Derry who was extremely helpful. Within a short amount of time I received a copy of the building permit dated October 23, 2003 that described the renovations and other work that was done to Mary Ann’s Diner. But most importantly it had the name of the contractor – Designer Diners, Inc. of Newark, NJ.

Even though Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry is only open for breakfast and lunch on the weekdays and breakfast only on the weekends, this place has been such a wild success, the Andreoli’s decided to branch out with a new location in Windham, NH which opened in 2013. The new location did get a mention in the diner listings in my NH Diner book.

Mary Ann’s Diner – Windham, NH

I finally got around to visit Mary Ann’s Diner in Windham, NH just last weekend (October 30, 2016) in anticipation of doing this blog post. This version of Mary Ann’s Diner is located in a strip mall just off Route 111 west of I-93, about a mile or so – at the corner of Cobbetts Pond Road and Lowell Road. The actual storefront is narrow and quite deceiving as to how large the diner is. There is a barber shop to the left of the diner but the shop is not as deep into the building. The diner actually makes a left turn behind the barber shop. Designer Diners again did the whole interior of this place and it looks great! I have yet to eat here but I have no doubt it is as good as the other two locations! The Windham one has the same hours as the Derry location.

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Exterior of Mary Ann’s Diner in Windham, NH.
October 30, 2016 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Interior of Mary Ann’s Diner in Windham, NH.
October 30, 2016 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Interior of Mary Ann’s Diner in Windham, NH.
October 30, 2016 photo by Larry Cultrera

Mary Ann’s Diner – Salem, NH

Earlier this year a report came out that the Andreoli’s, the owners of Mary Ann’s Diner were rehabbing a former Bickford’s Grille on Veterans Memorial Highway at the corner of Route 28 in Salem, NH to be their third location. I received word from Bob Higgins that it was getting close to opening around the beginning of August. So I made a trip up to Salem on August 14, 2016 to see what the place looked like. Even though it was a Sunday afternoon, things were hopping with workers doing various tasks to get it ready for a soft opening. The Exterior of the building received small changes. The formerly wood shingled large mansard surrounding the brick building got a metal covering with white trim and the window frames were now mirror finish stainless steel. The pediment over the front entryway already had the signage but was waiting for some decorative stainless steel panels that would arrive that week. I was invited inside to photograph the restaurant and was happy to see that Designer Diners did not disappoint, they pulled out all the stops and the place looked fantastic!

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Interior of the new Mary Ann’s Diner in Salem, NH.
August 14, 2016 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Interior of the new Mary Ann’s Diner in Salem, NH.
August 14, 2016 photo by Larry Cultrera

While I was there, one of the workers gave Bill Andreoli  Jr. a call and handed me the cell phone. We spoke for a few minutes and he told me that the father and son team who make up the Designer Diner company are basically retired from the business. But because of their history with the Andreoli’s other two diner projects, they agreed to come back for this project and do the work in their spare time.  The new Mary Ann’s was slated to hold their grand opening on August 18th but it was put off for a couple of days. I managed to get there on August 28, 2016 for breakfast.

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Exterior of the new Mary Ann’s Diner in Salem, NH.
August 28, 2016 early morning photo by Larry Cultrera

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Exterior of the new Mary Ann’s Diner in Salem, NH.
August 28, 2016 early morning photo by Larry Cultrera

The place has been getting huge crowds and is already very popular. This location is open longer hours than the other two and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner! We tried to get there for lunch on a Sunday (September 4th) but found out after a 30 minute wait that the full lunch menu is not served until 2:00 pm on weekends. So hopefully sometime in the near future we can check out the full lunchtime menu.

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Exterior of the new Mary Ann’s Diner in Salem, NH.
September 4, 2016 early afternoon photo by Larry Cultrera

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Exterior of the new Mary Ann’s Diner in Salem, NH.
September 4, 2016 early afternoon photo by Larry Cultrera