New Hampshire’s Milford Diner to become 2nd Red Arrow Diner

Milford Diner, circa 2007 photo by Larry Cultrera

I wrote within the last 2 months about the tragic death of Gordon Maynard, co-owner with Debbie Flerra of the Milford Diner of Milford, NH. Maynard died from injuries received in an automobile accident. Apparently, the diner has not reopened since Maynard’s passing.

I just read a news story from about some new info on the diner. It looks like Carol Sheehan of Manchester’s Red Arrow Diner is going to reopen the Milford site as a second location for the Red Arrow. I had heard that she was thinking of opening more locations. Ironically, back a few decades ago, there was a chain of Red Arrow Diners in New Hampshire and the Manchester location was the last still operating from the earlier chain.

I know I have a postcard in my collection showing a Red Arrow Diner in Nashua, (a Brill diner), that does not exist anymore. According to the Cabinet story, there were quite a few Red Arrow’s in Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city.

I only went to the Milford once when Maynard and Flerra operated it (around the time they reopened it) and had a pleasant visit. I was hoping to get back but had not been able to make the time. From what I saw they had done a nice job in bringing back the feel of this circa 1930 vintage Liberty Diner built in the Silver Creek, NY area after its interior was trashed by the previous operators.

Well I like the Red Arrow Diner in Manchester so I can only hope that the Milford one will be just as good food-wise and that they don’t do anything to the interior which in my opinion has a great diner feel already!
Here is the copy from Staff writer Kathy Cleveland’s story on the diner’s rebirth….

Follow the Red Arrow to Oval

Published: Thursday, Sep. 25, 2008
MILFORD — Manchester’s landmark Red Arrow Diner will open a 24-hour eatery on the Oval in the old Milford Diner, and name it the Red Arrow Diner. The location will be the Red Arrow’s second diner and will be identical to the Manchester one, only bigger, said Dawn Foote, daughter of Red Arrow owner Carol L. Sheehan, on Tuesday.
The low-slung Manchester eatery, a well-known campaign stop during presidential primaries, is squeezed into a narrow strip of land on Lowell Street and is often bursting with customers. Foote said the real estate closing was scheduled for Sept. 24, and the diner should open in mid-October. On Tuesday, Milford residents seemed happy with the news that the diner will re-open. It has been closed since July when co-owner Gordon Maynard was killed in a car accident.
Karen Walker, owner of Karen’s Kollectibles, across the street from the Milford Diner, said she is excited.
“People come in here and ask where can I get a soda or a cold drink,” she said, because there is nowhere to go after 2 p.m. “Between (the new diner) and the good Chinese restaurant” nearby, it’s good news for Milford, Walker said, referring to the China Golden, across from her shop. Selectman Kathy Bauer said the diner will “be good for downtown. A lot of people in Milford work the night shift. It fits in with our way of life.”
The Red Arrow opened in Manchester in 1922 and is famous for its all-day breakfasts, grilled cheese and other traditional diner food. It came out tops in Hippo Press’ 2008 readers’ poll, in several categories, including “best cheap eats,” “best breakfast” “best diner” and “best grilled cheese.”  “By sticking to a simple formula of good food, low prices, courteous service, and clean atmosphere, the Red Arrow packs them in,” said Randy Garbin of Roadside Magazine, quoted in USA Today. He recommended the breakfast chili omelet and “splendid brownie creme pie.”

Streetcar diner

The Milford Diner has been a downtown fixture since the early 1900s. In recent years it has had several incarnations, including the notorious Toro restaurant a few years ago. Toro’s owners wound up taking water from the Souhegan River with a bucket they lowered out the window after the utilities were shut off for non-payment. The couple left town and abandoned the property owing employees back wages.
When Maynard and Debbie Flerra, who owns the Milford Fish Market, opened a diner in 2007 they received acclaim for the retro-50s style furnishings. Flerra could not be reached at press time.
Milford’s town history, “The Granite Town,” says the town’s first diner was a streetcar owned by Sidney Baker, who would park it on Middle Street during the day then bring it to the north end of the Oval to open for business at night.
The Red Arrow opened in 1922 and at one point there were five Red Arrows throughout the city, according to the diner’s web page. In 1998 the diner, which has only five booths and 16 stools, went smoke-free, which caused unhappy patrons to picket the place. That same year it was voted one of the top 10 diners in the country by USA Today.

5 thoughts on “New Hampshire’s Milford Diner to become 2nd Red Arrow Diner

  1. Larry,

    I can’t believe it passed me that the diner on the Hudson Valley site was the Prospect Mtn!

    What I’m writing this for is to ask if the owners of the Red Arrow know that the diner is a Liberty, and have any intentions of restoring the exterior?
    There were more Liberty Dining Cars in New Hampshire. I guess a salesman had pretty good luck in New Hampshire.

  2. Mike,
    I emailed Carol Sheehan and attached a vintage photo of Kuppy’s Diner from Middletown, PA. Although Kuppy’s is a Ward & Dickinson car it is almost the same basic window/door configuration as the Milford Diner. The 2 companies built such similar looking units, I figured they might get some inspiration for restoring the exterior to look more original when they saw the photo of Kuppy’s.

  3. Hi Shelly,
    You are basically correct. Mr. Marshall started out with a lunch wagon. He eventually bought the current diner and brought it to the site in the early 1930’s I believe.

    This current diner is believed to be a Liberty Dining Car. Liberty was an offshoot of the Ward & Dickinson Company of Silver Creek, NY. W&D’s and Liberty’s were very similar in design.

    As an interesting side note, the building that houses the diningroom on the right side of the diner was a pre-existing structure. When the diner was placed next to the other building, it was too long for that piece of property and actually hangs over the retaining wall by the bridge.

  4. When my ex wife and I lived in that great town (it was 1990) we would go to the Milford Diner on the Oval every Saturday. Such a fantastic breakfast.

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