Road Construction leaves diner and other businesses in limbo


A road construction project in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia is killing business for a number of commercial enterprises that depend on street traffic for patronage. One half mile of Germantown Avenue has been closed due to a 17 million dollar PennDot project to replace 100 year old utility lines and is wreaking havoc on the small businesses including the Trolleycar Diner, pictured above.
Here is a link to the story from yesterdays Philadelphia Inquirer…

“Notes from the Hotline”, February 25th

Denise and I got to the Little Depot Diner on Railroad Avenue (behind the Courthouse) in downtown Peabody, Mass. on Saturday. This turned out to be a pleasant experience. Steve Repucci had visited there the day before and reported a short, positive review as well. I talked briefly with owner Jim Miles who was helping out and kibitzing with customers. His daughter Jen, a school teacher who was waitressing on her week off from school was very upbeat. The food was good as well as the service and reasonably priced. Jim told me they did some homework while getting the diner prepared for reopening and he had several “diner” books on hand including Gary Thomas’ “Diners of the Northshore”, Richard Gutman’s “Worcester Lunch Car Company” (both Images of America publications) and Randy Garbin’s “Diners of New England” book. Ironically, Bob Higgins emailed me later in the day on Saturday and reported we had just missed crossing paths again as he visited the Little Depot not too long after we were there.  Here is a link to the Salem Evening news article from last Wednesday about the diner…

We went to Ernie’s Lunch in Melrose, Mass. Saturday afternoon and Pam (the owner) told me she heard that another diner in Peabody might be in jeopardy. The Foster Street Diner aka Driftwood II Diner formerly the Red Rambler Diner may be threatened by redevelopment. This is a late 1920’s vintage Worcester Lunch Car. The photo below shows it as it was within the last few years (and now).


I called Gary Thomas today and he said someone had emailed him a link to a diner for sale on Craigslist. He said it was advertised as being in Peabody. I checked it out and it looks like it is the one. The ad said it needed to be moved. Here is the link to Craigslist

The Farmington Diner is set to move down Route 2 to Wilton, Maine today. According to news reports the new owner paid $1.00 for the diner to help save it and is moving it to temporary storage with hopes to reopen it in the near future. Here are a couple of links to stories written in the last few days about this..

Visit to the Rosebud Diner


I visited the Rosebud Diner in Somerville, Mass. the other evening after work, and had a nice dinner and talk with owner Bill Nichols. The Rosebud is a Worcester semi-streamlined model dating from 1941. I have been going to the Rosebud Diner since I first started documenting diners with photographs back in the early 1980’s. But I remember it from my youth in the 50’s and 60’s when my Dad would drive by it on the way to Porter Square in Cambridge. The diner had been primarily used as a bar/lounge from 1957 through 1990 or so. I recall looking at it and thinking this bar looks like so many diners I was familiar with. Knowing that diners were built in factories from a young age, I thought that maybe diner factories sold them to be used as bars also. Oh well, live and learn!

I found out later that the diner of course started out serving food until Bill’s Dad, Gally bought the diner in 1957. He continued to run it as it had been briefly. The story goes, one day the cooks came in to work and found out the kitchen had been closed and they were out of a job. Sometime in the early 1970’s, the Nichols removed an old canvas awning from the front of the diner and hid the monitor-style roof with a mansard that hung down over the windows slightly, acting like an awning. But there were also recessed lights shining down on the front facade.

Fast forward to 1980-81 when I start taking photos of diners, I made a definitive shot of the Rosebud which I considered one of my best. I shot it from the farthest side of the little triangular park that separates Summer Street from Elm Street, across from the diner. The diner was perfectly framed by trees on the left and the right making the diner look like it was more in a country setting rather than an urban, in-town location. I later gave an 8″ x 12″ enlargement of this to Bill who placed it in a frame and proudly featured it behind the counter on the wall for 8 or 9 years. For a number of years in the 1980’s the Rosebud was a Tuesday night stop for myself and Steve Repucci for some beers, usually after having a meal at either Depasquale’s Pizzeria, Rudy’s Cafe or even Carroll’s Diner. We always would say to Bill, “hey, why don’t you take the mansard off this”. He would usually laugh at us, but understood why we wanted to see this happen.

Around 1989 or 90, the Nichols family sold the diner (but held the mortgage) and it eventually became the Cuckoo’s Nest that served a limited menu (Tex-Mex I believe) for a few years. The owners defaulted on the mortgage around 1994 and the Nichols reacquired the property through land court and decided to bring the building back as a diner.  One Saturday evening after they started the work to bring the diner back to a more reasonable appearence, I had a message on my answering machine. It said “Larry, it’s Billy Nichols. We took the mansard off the diner”. I started laughing when I heard this! I probably went right over the next day and took some shots.

Well the Rosebud reopened on President’s Day, 1995 and has been going strong ever since. It has gotten some good publicity, which has helped business. It has also been placed on the National Register of Historic Places (The Massachusetts Multiple Listing). Around 1997 or so, I created the Rosebud Diner postcard from a digitally enhanced version of a photo I shot on opening day. In this enhanced shot I replaced the washed out sky and restored the right hand end wall of the diner to a more original appearance (which has since actually been done). I also designed the logo for their “diner style” coffee mug.

My visit the other day was partially business as I picked up a marked-up breakfast menu to be redesigned. I have been doing this desktop publishing thing for 12 plus years and I am finally getting a chance to do a diner menu! For anyone who has not been there, the Rosebud Diner is located at 381 Summer Street, in Davis Square, Somerville, Mass.

“Notes from the Hotline”, February 18th

Saturday’s Breakfast at Blanchard’s 101 Diner

Denise and I, as planned went out to Worcester and had a great breakfast at Blanchard’s 101 Diner! Denise had a fresh-baked corn muffin while I as predicted had the “Italian Breakfast” which was delicious. Denise was impressed with the overall appearance of the diner and I enjoyed talking with Chris Blanchard during our visit.

They seemed to be doing a good business for 7:30 in the morning and I can only predict that once they iron out or tweak any small operating glitches (there are bound to be some of these in a new venture such as this) this will certainly be another wonderful destination for locals as well as visitors to the area to seek out for breakfast and lunch (dinner hours are scheduled for Thursday thru Saturday).

Former Whistlestop Diner in Peabody, Mass. reopens as The Little Depot Diner


The Little Depot Diner has opened in Peabody recently. This diner is Worcester Lunch Car No. 650 and was originally delivered to Lynn, Mass. as Harry’s Diner, Dec. 11th, 1929.
It has been in Peabody since 1950 and was long operated as Kurly’s Diner until the early 1980’s. It was alterred after Mort and Inez Kurland sold it and it was renamed the Railroad Diner (it is adjacent to an abandoned rail line). More recently it was operated by Barbara Henry as the Whistlestop Diner, keeping the railroad theme alive.

It has been closed for over a year and had a “for sale” sign on it. This sign was taken down in recent months and some work was being done to it within the last few weeks.
I got a message from Bob Higgins of Methuen who informed me that on his way to the Salem Diner yesterday for a late breakfast, he noticed it was reopened as the Little Depot Diner (continuing the railroad theme yet again).

Ironically, Denise and I were at the Salem Diner ourselves yesterday (but much earlier than Bob) and we had bypassed Peabody Center (where the Little Depot Diner is located) to get over to the Salem, so we did not see the diner had opened.

I stopped by today (lucky me, I had a paid holiday) and it was closed for President’s Day. I took note of their operating hours and it is strongly remeniscent of the Whistlestop’s. The diner is open Monday – Friday 7:00 am to 2:00 pm for breakfast and lunch, and Saturday hours are 7:00 am – 12:00 pm (just breakfast). Sundays are 8:00 am – 1:00 pm (just breakfast).
I might be checking them out some Saturday morning just to see how they are doing.

Dunkin’ Donuts Fun Club Ring….
the oldest piece of commercial memorabilia in my collection


Here is a photo of the Dunkin’ Donuts Fun Club Ring I have had in my collection (before it was a collection) for quite some time. I believe I got it by sending away with some sort of entry form I picked up at the Dunkin’ Donuts shop located at Redstone Shopping Center in Stoneham, Mass between the ages of 7 and 10, by my recollection. I do not remember any other benefit from joining the Fun Club other than getting the ring. I have often wondered how many of these are still in existance.

Tomorrow’s Breakfast at Blanchard’s 101 Diner

I got a call from Chris Blanchard this past Monday night (Blanchard’s 101 Diner, Worcester, Mass.). He inquired about diner manufacturer “tags” and what they looked like, specifically Worcester Diner tags. I told him I had some examples of Worcester tags as well as some other manufacturers and I would scan a few. He is considering having a tag made for his diner but doesn’t know what to call it understandably.

His diner, as I previously mentioned on January 26th here, ( see New “old” Diner to open in Worcester, Mass.) was partially built by Fran Van Slett who started the Worcester Deluxe Diner Manufacturing Company in 1961 after the dissolution of the former Worcester Lunch Car Company. Van Slett was building the diner “on spec”, which is something no diner company usually did. They would only start building a diner if there was a paying customer waiting for one. Hence, this diner never got completed until Chris and his cousin Matt bought the basic plywood shell and brought it back to Worcester and completed its construction, (therefor, the confusion as what to put on the tag).

The Blanchard’s had a “soft opening” a couple of weeks ago and by all reports, things are going pretty well. In fact Randy Garbin (Roadsideonline) called me on Wednesday afternoon to report that what I told him was true and that he thought they did a wonderful job of completing and getting the diner up and running. He raved about the sausage, pepper and onion sandwich he had as well.

So tomorrow, I am planning on going to Blanchard’s 101 Diner for breakfast (between 7 and 7:30am). I am bringing a few items for Chris’ photo gallery (located in the hallway that goes to the rest rooms). I am so looking forward to enjoying the Italian breakfast which seems to be almost a staple at some diners in central Massachusetts (I’ve had it at Chet’s Diner, the Parkway Diner and the Central Diner). This usually consists of eggs, homefries and Italian sausage with red sauce.

New “Notes from the Hotline”


Lynn, Massachusetts’ Capitol Diner to start opening Sunday Mornings!

For people who do not know, the Capitol Diner is a 1928 vintage Brill Diner, the last operating diner built by J.G. Brill Company. At one time there were many of these diners but over the years one by one they all seemed to disappear. The Miss Troy Diner of Troy, New York was operating until 2 or 3 years ago but has since been razed. Denise and I were at the Capitol Diner this weekend and were talking with our long-time friend, owner Bob Fennell. He told us that both of his daughters are now working at the diner on Saturdays making it a family affair again. Bob also mentioned that he was going to start opening the diner for Sunday mornings starting the first Sunday in March. Opening hours will be 7:00 am to 1:00 pm, serving breakfast only. The menu will feature some new specials possibly including belgian waffles. I’ll be looking forward to checking this out in about 3 weeks!
On a sadder note, Bob’s mother Helen T. Fennell passed away this past Tuesday (the 5th of Feb.) from a short illness.
We send our condolences to the Fennell family.

Middletown, Connecticuts’ O’Rourke’s Diner reopening!

It has also been reported that O’Rourke’s Diner is set to reopen tomorrow, Monday February 11th at 5:00 am. Congratulations to everyone who helped Brian O’Rourke get the venerable eatery back in business after the devastating fire it had 18 months ago.

The “classic” Forbes Diner of New Haven to be replaced by Dunkin Donuts


I was checking out Randy Garbin’s (Roadsideonline) Roadside Forums as I am wont to do on a daily basis when I noticed either Monday or Tuesday (the days seem to run together) the Forbes Diner of New Haven, CT was being moved to be replaced by a Dunkin Donuts store. For those who don’t know, the Forbes Diner is a classic, top-of-the-line 1957 vintage Fodero diner. With a vestibule, front “diner” section and back “kitchen/restrooms” section in nearly as close to original condition as you could get.

I was debating on putting anything in the Hotline about it when I got an email from Al Hofer on Tuesday night with a link to a website piece on the diner. I thought maybe I should do this when on Wednesday noontime-ish I got another email from Phil Langdon (Phil wrote the book, “Orange Roofs, Golden Arches”) with a story from the New Haven Register about the diners plight.

Although I never ate there (I will always kick myself over that), I did at least photograph it on May 29, 1983, according to my Diner Log. It was a damp and dreary Sunday afternoon as I recall, on a Connecticut roadtrip with Steve Repucci and David Hebb. We saw a lot of diners that day and unfortunately, Forbes Diner was closed that afternoon.

According to the news pieces the diner is being saved by the current owner who hopes to find a new location in or around New Haven to place the diner and operate it again. In the meantime, he is storing the 3 sections of the diner behind his other business, the New Star Diner.

Here is the New Haven Register article along with an intro by Phil Langdon ….

Here’s an article from the Feb. 5 New Haven Register about the Forbes Diner. I only ate at the Forbes once–a lunch in early 1987 with architect Melanie Taylor, who during that meeting pointed out that shopping centers are now being called “Town Centers” and “Town Commons” and other such names and that a few people are starting to create real town centers (as at Mashpee Commons on Cape Cod). While we sat in a booth decorated with boomerang shapes in Formica, she gave me the idea that there was a growing yearning for traditional town centers, which resulted in my writing the March 1988 Atlantic Monthly cover story “A Good Place to Live” and led to my book A Better Place to Live. Hats off to the Forbes, wherever it may be! It had the grease of inspiration.

Forbes Diner on the move, but to where?

By Mark Zaretsky, Register Staff


NEW HAVEN — They just packed up the front half of the sleek, stainless steel Forbes Diner last week, put it on a flatbed truck and took it away.

After 51 years, on and off, as a landmark eggs and coffee stop on Forbes Avenue, the diner is gone.

When they finish doing that with the back half of the Forbes this week to make way for a Dunkin’ Donuts, it will mark the first time in 60 years that there hasn’t been a diner at Forbes Avenue and Stiles Street.

But this is a story without an ending as yet — and there still is a chance for a happy one.

The good news is: The Forbes Diner is still in New Haven.

It’s still owned by its most recent owner, and Helmi Elsayed “Mo” Ali — a pretty resourceful guy, who a decade ago moved Ansonia’s former New State Diner to become the New Star Diner in Fair Haven — still hopes to reopen it. He prefers to do so in New Haven — or if not, someplace close by.

The well-preserved 1957 Fodero diner has gone through changes before. Its original owners, the Ezold family, closed it in 1994, but it reopened in 1998.

Ali, who struggled for years to keep the Forbes going amid high costs and marginal business, finally agreed to sell the property after several years of Dunkin’ Donuts overtures.

He closed the diner last week when the riggers showed up.

The original plan, which the City Plan Commission approved in 2006, called for demolition. But, Ali couldn’t go through with it and convinced the buyer to let him move the diner instead.

“I don’t want to knock it down,” Ali said.

So he moved the front half early Monday, and will move the back half midweek to property he owns near his other diner.

Having made that commitment, he’s nervous and doesn’t mind saying, “I need help — I need a new home right away!”

Ali hopes the city values the Forbes as much as he does and will get involved in trying to help relocate it. If anyone else out there has a good, high-traffic spot on a main drag — preferably in the city — for a beautiful old diner, he can can be reached at the New Star Diner at 562-5582.

The Forbes, which employed more than a dozen people at one point, “is in very good shape — inside and out,” Ali said. “All you need is a piece of property.”

City Deputy Economic Development Director Tony Bialecki, who used to eat at the Forbes Diner as a kid, said he’s aware of the situation. “I may just take a drive by and talk to him. It’s been a while since we talked about it,” Bialecki said.

Bialecki pointed out that City Plan Director Karyn Gilvarg noted the diner’s historic value in City Plan’s 2006 approval of the Dunkin’ Donuts plan.

There are others who recognize the diner’s value. Ali said he turned down an attractive offer from someone who wanted to move it out of state.

“It is a beautiful diner and it is very desirable,” said diner expert Randy Garbin, who runs the Web site and ate at the Forbes twice.

“This one is the diner that everybody wants when they call up looking for a diner — they want a big, stainless steel diner from the ’50s,” said Garbin, who lives outside Philadelphia.

“It seems a little sad,” said Richard J.S. Gutman, author of “American Diner: Then and Now” and curator of the Culinary Archives & Museum at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. “I’ve eaten there, I’ve liked it.”

Gutman, at the time of the Forbes’ reopening in 1998, called the model used for the Forbes “just about the zenith of diner design. … It sort of just epitomizes the 1950s.”

The man who built the Forbes, Pat Fodero, who ran the Fodero Dining Car Co. of Bloomfield, N.J., said in 1998, “They’ve got a good unit there. All they’ve got to do is serve good food.”

Mark Zaretsky can be reached at  or 789-5722.

Here is the Link to WTNH’s piece as well …. 

Thanks Al and Phil (and Randy too)!