New “old” Diner to open in Worcester, Mass.

A new “old” diner will be opening in Worcester shortly. Actually this diner has been waiting to open since 1961 or so. Let me explain with some background. On May 23, 1961, the contents, tooling and other sundry assets of the Worcester Lunch Car and Carriage Manufacturing Company were sold at auction to Francis Van Slett.

Van Slett, the owner of the Van Slett Sign and Advertising Company (also of Worcester) hoped to continue the long tradition of diner manufacturing for the city. He named his new enterprise the Worcester Deluxe Diner Manufacturing Company, keeping on some WLC employees including Charles Gemme, (the long-time foreman for WLC) who acted as a consultant. Later in 1961 Van Slett was quoted in a Worcester Telegram and Gazette newspaper article that he was starting to build a diner on the speculation that a customer would be forthcoming.

Well the diner was only partially built at this time and a prospective customer never materialized, so the diner remained in storage (in a large warehouse) until the late 1990’s when Van Slett’s old property was cleared for new use. Ironically, the building where the diner was housed all those years is still there.

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Here is that diner in Van Slett’s warehouse, November, 1981

The diner was moved to at least 2 storage locations one in Fall River, Mass. and one in Rhode Island but the structure was unfortunately largely unprotected from the weather for quite a while, sustaining water damage and rot.

A little over two and a half years ago Chris and Matt Blanchard of Worcester were in the market to expand their family business known as Blanchard Foods (a vending and catering company) by locating a classic diner and have it installed on their property.

They found out about the diner that Van Slett had started, (then being referred to as Worcester Deluxe 101) and felt that this diner, although just a plywood covered shell might just be what they were looking for. According to Chris, this was sort of poetic justice, completing the diner that was started so many years ago in the same city it was to be originally manufactured in.

Well it took a while but what is now known as Blanchard’s 101 Diner is slated to be opening in the next couple of weeks. Matt, handling the construction, has done a wonderful job, with what was essentially a blank canvas. The diner has 4 booths and a long counter w/stools, indirect lighting along the perimeter of the wall at the ceiling as well as recessed lights. Also there will be cooking right behind the counter!

The exterior is covered with heavy gauge metal panels (looking like flat extruded flutes) that were painted a pale yellow enamel in an auto body shop prior to being installed and there is stainless steel trim around the windows and at the roof-line and corners of the structure.

Due to the damage from being unprotected from the weather, the roof had to be shored up with beams that were placed back to front and actually protruded below the ceiling height. The exposed beams were then covered with stainless steel trim and do not look bad at all.

Steve Repucci and I stopped by today after having breakfast at the Central Diner in Milbury (But that’s another story) and checked on the progress only to find out it was being readied to open. After talking with Chris (a Certified Executive Chef) and Matt we got the very strong feeling that this diner was finally in good hands and can’t wait to eat there in the very near future!

The diner is located at 322 Cambridge Street in Worcester and will be open 7 days a week. Sun-Wed: 5 am to 3 pm,
Thurs: 5 am to 8 pm, & Fri-Sat: 5 am to 11 pm

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Exterior view of Blanchard’s 101 Diner

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Interior of Blanchard’s 101 Diner (from left end)

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Interior of Blanchard’s 101 Diner (from right end)

6 thoughts on “New “old” Diner to open in Worcester, Mass.

  1. I have heard from more than one person that they tried to visit Blanchard’s 101 Diner after 2:00 pm on days that were initially listed as being open for dinner and finding them closed.

    I called and spoke with Matthew Blanchard who told me that they are cutting back the hours right now so they are only open for breakfast and lunch, 6:00am to 2:00pm, 7 days a week.

    When they get the diner (and staff) to where they feel the service and offerings are firing on all cylinders, they will start working in the evening hours for dinner patrons.

    We will keep following this and let you know when this happens!
    LAC

  2. Charles Gemme was my Grandfather and Fathers Stepfather. I am intrigued by interest in the old diners. My Father and Uncle worked on many diners and learned their trade while working for my Grandfather. Both deceased now all I have are memorable stories.

  3. David, Thanks for leaving a comment. Your grandfather from what I have read and heard about was an interesting individual who designed and built some of the most well crafted and beautiful diners ever (in my opinion). Those of us who have grown up in New England (in the 50’s and 60’s like myself) grew up with Worcester Diners.

  4. David, Charles Gemme was my great uncle- I am descended from his brother Euclide. I’ve always enjoyed the atmosphere of the diners but never knew why. It’s great learning the legacy that Uncle Charlie left behind. My father, my uncle and I would very much enjoy hearing all of those stories from you. Be well. Rick Gemme.

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