Who knew back when Randy Garbin published the above issue of Roadside (Issue Number 35, May – 2007) with the headline about Phil De Raffele as the old-line diner industry’s sole survivor that it also would be the final issue (in print media) for Garbin’s almost 20 year labor of love. Back in 1990 when the first issue of Roadside first came out, I was fairly surprised because I had not heard of Randy’s efforts to start the first ever professionally designed and self-published tabloid style newsletter from a fan’s perspective on the venerable American Diner.
I came across a pile of this first edition of Roadside at the cashier’s stand of Henry’s Diner, Worcester Lunch Car # 841 in the Allston section of Boston. Being that it was only 4 pages I read it over fairly quickly. I went home and called Dick Gutman as I recall and said have you ever heard of this? He replied that he had. Randy had been in touch with him and consulted on some historical points. I found one or two small errors being the stickler for accuracy that I am and decided to contact Mr. Garbin and introduce myself. I myself had been documenting diners for 10 years and had already started writing Diner Hotline over a year and a half prior to that point.
After contacting Randy we made arrangements to meet shortly after and have been friends and colleagues ever since. Trading info and other news and even going on the occasional “Diner Hunt”. In fact I even contributed a “Diner Hunting” column for Roadside Volume 1, No. 4. about finding the Abandoned Luncheonette (from Daryl Hall & John Oates 1973 Album cover). Being self published as Roadside has been for most of its existence has allowed Randy some freedom but I’m sure it was never much of a money-making enterprise. In fact he managed to sell the magazine to Ball Publishing a number of years ago only to see one issue ever come out of that deal.
After Randy and Ball Publishing severred their relationship, He went on to start “By the Way” magazine to take up where Roadside ended. After a year or so of no published Roadside issues by Ball, Randy decided he had a legal right to resume publishing under the Roadside banner once again and laid to rest “By the Way”.
Since then the magazine, which reverted to a tabloid came out sparodically over the next few years. His Roadside Online website was updated more often and was read by many people including myself. I want to personally thank Randy for all his years of being one of the most public faces of Diner enthusiasts across the country and sometimes being that “cry in the dark” on different issues that have come up.
Here is Randy’s “November, 2008 Napkin Notes” about the end of Roadside…..
The Road Ends Here
Eighteen years ago last month, the first issue of Roadside hit the countertops. Thirty-five issues later (and eight more of By the Way magazine), I regret to have to tell you that the trip finally comes to an end. I have put an enormous amount of thought and consideration into this decision. Roadside existed not simply as a vocation and lifestyle, for nearly two decades, Roadside became my very identity. A future without it seemed unthinkable. And yet, here I am.
About a year ago, I embarked on a concerted effort to drum up proper backing for a serious media publishing enterprise that once and for all set Roadside on a solid business foundation with resources akin to what we had during the Ball Publishing year of 2000. After a great deal of consultation with friends, associates, and industry professionals, I set a goal to raise $300,000 in start-up capital. To help sell the concept to potential investors, I cited Roadside’s extraordinary performance during the Ball period in which we had attracted almost 20,000 new subscribers. For whatever reason — the shaky economic climate, general reticence to invest in a media property, or a too-narrow network of contacts — the effort came up short.
More than one person has encouraged me to at least continue with the website and with Napkin Notes, but I am going to be perfectly honest with you: Recent events in the past few months unrelated to the spate of bad economic news have forced my hand. Like anyone else making a foray into small business, I began this enterprise with great passion and energy, convinced of its value to the market. I hoped — and expected — to meet and do business with kindred spirits who shared my vision and saw mutual benefits to a professional relationship. Despite all my efforts, I simply could not find a like-minded, committed partner with the necessary integrity and business savvy to help me grow this enterprise.
No one can predict what the future will hold for all this. I’m completely open to reasonable suggestions and possible leads for funds. I still plan to relaunch the Diner Finder as a more interactive feature that allows more direct contributions from the readers. Consider it a token of appreciation for those who have supported this effort. Who knows what it might grow into? I have already shut down Diner for Sale and the Roadside Forum to avoid having to moderate and maintain these sites. I also indefinitely suspended RoadsideOnline’s blog (one of the internet’s first) and the print magazine. For the time being, all existing editorial content will remain online.
I remain forever grateful to those who have supported this effort, even in the smallest of ways. I will always consider as dear friends the hundreds of diner operators and thousands of subscribers who saw Roadside as their voice as well and a catalyst for community building. For this eighteen-year-long ride, that has always been its greatest reward. You may still see me at the local diner wherever you live, and if you do, please stop by and chat about the American roadside. It may no longer have a publication truly worthy of the topic, but it will always count me as its most fervent advocate.