Salem Diner reopens under new ownership

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A couple of weeks ago I contacted Joe Cultrera, the independent film producer (an acquaintance, no relation), as I saw he had relocated from NYC back to his hometown of Salem, Mass. Joe has produced films such as Witch City and more recently Hand of God, a film that appeared on PBS’s Frontline about his older brother Paul who was a victim of the 1960’s Catholic priest abuse scandal and how Paul and the rest of the family later dealt with this knowledge.

Anyway in the brief email exchange Joe inquired about the “closed” Salem Diner (a 1941 vintage Sterling Streamliner). I told him I wasn’t aware that it had closed. He mentioned it had a sign saying it would be reopening under new owners. From what I understand it was not closed too long and an article from todays Salem News confirmed that it has reopened as of yesterday. The new owners had longtime regular customer Johnny Pesky (of Boston Red Sox fame) cut the ribbon at the Grand Reopening.

Here is the text from the article…

Red Sox icon Johnny Pesky steps up to plate for Salem Diner

Tom Dalton

SALEM | Johnny Pesky looks as comfortable in the corner booth at the Salem Diner as he did sitting in the dugout at Fenway Park. It’s a home away from home.The 88-year-old Red Sox icon, who was a teammate of Ted Williams and Dom DiMaggio, now sits at the Loring Avenue eatery between Bob Grant, 82, a retired first assistant clerk magistrate at Salem District Court, and Joe Moran, 82, the former director of guidance for the Chelsea public schools.Yesterday, while waiting for their food to arrive, the boothmates tossed a few fastballs at Pesky, a former Red Sox player, coach and manager who has been immortalized by “The Pesky Pole,” the right-field foul pole at Fenway Park.“It’s not easy being associated with Johnny Pesky,” said a grinning Moran, loud enough for Pesky to hear. “I get people calling me from Hong Kong wanting his autograph.”

“I don’t mind,” Pesky said.

“Yeah, but it’s ruining me,” Moran said.

Team Pesky made a special trip to the Salem Diner yesterday for its grand reopening. Built in 1941 — the year before Pesky made his major league debut — it was recently bought by George and Zoe Elefteriadis of Belmont, former owners of the Sports Haven in Salem and the A Street Deli in South Boston.

When they bought the diner, they had no idea they were acquiring the rights to a baseball legend and his boothmates, who have been eating breakfast there for the past decade. In fact, Zoe Elefteriadis had no idea about the identity of the white-haired guys in the corner booth.

“I said, ‘Who’s Johnny Pesky?'” she said with an embarrassed laugh.

Fast learners, the couple invited Pesky to cut the ribbon at yesterday’s ceremony. He arrived in his blue Red Sox jacket and gladly did the honors inside the tiny diner decorated with pink, green and blue balloons.

“That’s the first one I’ve ever done,” he said. “I’ve been in parades, but I never cut a ribbon before.”

The Breakfast Boys began meeting more than 30 years ago at Rolly’s restaurant in Lynn, which is now gone. They moved to Bickford’s in Swampscott, Pesky’s hometown. “They sold the place,” he said, “so we had to move.” They made a brief appearance at Maria’s Place in Salem but have spent most of the past decade at the Salem Diner.

The morning lineup has changed over the years, as members have died, moved away or gone into nursing homes.

“We lost some wonderful people,” Pesky said.

The one constant has been Mr. Red Sox, who comes almost every day for eggs and sausage. And, being a superstitious ballplayer, he adds a little something of his own.

“I bring my own toast,” he said. “I’m one of those guys who’s allergic to flour.”

here is the link that has some photos…

http://www.salemnews.com/punews/local_story_010003053.html?keyword=secondarystory

 

Last original Dunkin Donuts sign threatened

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An article from the Boston Sunday Globe City section (1-6-08) by Robert Preer had some bad news for Classic Roadside enthusiasts. The last original Dunkin Donuts sign may become history. Ironically it is one of the most photographed signs (check out flickr). My old friend and colleague Arthur Krim of the Society for Commercial Archeology has been attempting to get Dunkin Donuts corporate offices to commit to saving this landmark sign which dates to 1957. Dave Waller was also mentioned.

Here is the text from that article…

Neon loses out to rust, dooming landmark sign

There were no birthday cakes or special crullers when the oversized neon Dunkin’ Donuts sign in Brighton turned 50 in 2007. Indeed, the rusted landmark and last original Dunkin’ Donuts sign standing anywhere appears on the verge of passing quietly into oblivion sometime soon.

“The sign is coming down,” says Andrew Mastrangelo, communications manager for Canton-based Dunkin’ Brands Inc.

Believed to have been erected in 1957, the rusting and unlighted sign next to a 24-hour Dunkin’ Donuts towers over the intersection of Market and North Beacon streets. Mastrangelo said a new sign will replace the old one, which has “deteriorated to an unacceptable condition.”

The impending demise of the old sign troubles some preservationists and admirers of mid-20th century roadside architecture.

“It’s sad news in the world of Boston landmarks,” said Arthur Krim, a geographer who led the campaign to save the Citgo sign in Kenmore Square in the 1980s. “It’s not unexpected, but I’m disappointed that after a half-century of public service, this logo won’t be around for another half-century.”

David Waller of Malden, a neon sign collector, said he hopes Dunkin’ Donuts will find a way to preserve this piece of history. “Dunkin’ Donuts signifies the end of mom and pop doughnut shops. To find something left over from that era is very important,” he said.

Mastrangelo indicated that the local franchisee will work with the community and city officials on plans for a replacement sign. “With all our restaurants, our intent is to always work to preserve the spirit and architectural essence of the neighborhood,” Mastrangelo said.

The stretch of North Beacon Street near the Massachusetts Turnpike is a busy strip with a mix of business uses. The road has a couple of other survivors of early commercial automobile culture, including the 1952 stainless steel Pig’n Whistle diner and Twin Donuts, with its well-preserved neon sign.

The lettering on the old Dunkin’ Donuts sign is significantly different from a modern Dunkin’ sign, although the color scheme is similar. “The pink neon gives it a candy-colored aura that matches the flavors of the doughnuts themselves,” said Krim.

A professor at the Boston Architectural Center, Krim has researched the history of Dunkin’ Donuts signs and is convinced the one in Brighton dates to 1957, when the company started franchising. The sign is classic ’50s graphic style, according to Krim.

“What appeals to me is that the apostrophe in Dunkin’ is a piece of neon unto itself.” Modern Dunkin’ Donuts signs are made of backlit plexiglass with fluorescent tubes.

Waller said he owns the only other intact original neon Dunkin’ Donuts sign, which he purchased from a collector and restored. That sign came from the Dunkin’ Donuts store on Southern Artery in Quincy, according to Waller. That was the very first Dunkin’ Donuts, opened by company founder William Rosenberg in 1950.

Waller said he might try to acquire the Brighton sign, also. “I’m interested in saving it one way or the other. I don’t need another one. I just don’t want to see it go in a dumpster,” he said. Waller said he hopes that the Dunkin’ Brands corporation will help the franchisee restore the sign.

Now the world’s largest coffee and baked goods chain, Dunkin’ Donuts was acquired by a British corporation in 1990 and later sold to a consortium of private equity firms.

Small collections of artifacts from the company’s early years are preserved in exhibits at Dunkin’ Donuts headquarters and at the Quincy Historical Society. Edward F. Fitzgerald, the society’s director, said he wishes he had more items from Dunkin’ Donuts, but has been unable to acquire any from the company. “I’m not sure they know what they have,” he said.

The neon sign, however, would probably be too big for the society’s museum, Fitzgerald said.

Robert Preer can be reached at preer@globe.com