Providence, RI diner may be moving to Minnesota

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The Sandwich Factory, both photos circa 1981 by Larry Cultrera

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A former Providence, RI diner may be on it’s way to a new home in Minnesota. Originally known as Poirier’s Diner and later operating under names such as El Faro, Arnold’s Diner, the Top Hat Diner and when I first photographed it sometime between November 29, 1980 and the start of my Diner log July 28, 1981 it was called The Sandwich Factory. This diner according to reports is a 1946 Kullman Diner and was located at 581 Atwells Avenue in Providence (it’s only operating location) prior to being moved into storage a number of years ago and restored. It is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A news story that showed up yesterday on the Prior Lake American website had  some info on the upcoming move to Prior Lake Minnesota.

Update: Council likes downtown dining car idea

By Lori Carlson, Editor

Lyaman McPherson likes “old stuff,” and he’s hoping to bring some of the past back to Prior Lake. On Monday, McPherson presented his plan to operate a 1940s-era railroad car diner in the downtown area. “This is about as old as it gets,” he said. McPherson is hoping to purchase and restore a 1947 diner built by the Kullman family, which built diners way back when. The diner would “working-class food” for breakfast and lunch, McPherson said. “I’d like place I can go in the morning and get my eggs, hash browns and toast. You can’t get that now in Prior Lake,” he told council members, who liked the idea. I’ve never seen a small town that didn’t have a greasy spoon.”

Council members said their only hesitation is McPherson’s preferred location for the diner, the lot where Joe’s Pizza used to stand at Main Avenue and Pleasant Street. The city, which owns the property, demolished the building along with Minnesota Nails last month. McPherson said he would be interested in leasing the property from the city. “We just voted to use transit funds to pave that lot [for use as a temporary parking lot],” Councilman Warren Erickson said. “I’m not so sure this could be considered a transit project.”

The project would not require financial help from the city, McPherson said. “I’m not asking for TIF or other help,” he said. “There would be minimal parking space required, with a potential parking lease from existing businesses.” McPherson, a past Prior Lake VFW post commander, said he’s heard “very positive response” from the VFW about the dining car, even though the car might operate right next to the VFW. He said he doesn’t see the VFW – or O’Malley’s bar, which recently started serving breakfast – as competition, and he would not seek a liquor license.

“I’ve found most people don’t want to go to the bar for breakfast,” he said. Council members said they’re concerned about having to move the diner when downtown is redeveloped, and they suggested other privately owned downtown properties as possible locations. “It could be moved, but to be honest, if someone comes in to develop downtown, I’d be interested in talking to them to see if we could be a part of it,” McPherson said.

He added that downtown has limited property available. One property he considered is on a swamp and likely wouldn’t work, he said.“It doesn’t quite fit our design guidelines, but it fits our design spirit,” Councilman Ken Hedberg said. The car would seat about 50 patrons at counter and booth seating and would be accessible for disabled patrons, McPherson said.

Though he’s owned businesses in the past, McPherson has never owned a restaurant. He said he plans to hire a restaurant manager to operate the dining car. He’s hoping to get a dining car ready to open by springtime. Dining cars can cost between $10,000 and $100,000, depending on the condition, not including any costs for renovation, McPherson said. The car he’s looking at purchasing is currently in Providence, R.I. and is listed on the National Historic Register.

Lori Carlson can be reached at (952) 345-6378 or editor@plamerican.com.

2 thoughts on “Providence, RI diner may be moving to Minnesota

  1. Has the diner actually been restored?
    This is good news even if the diner doesn’t help populate Minnesota as the next great wave of classic diners. hehe

    A few more, and there will be more classic diners opened (1 right now) than Starlites(4) in Minnesota.

  2. I am hoping to do the same thing in my town of Baraboo Wisconsin. The downtown area is going through some renovation and has a lot of history with the railroad and circus. I am trying to get as much information as I can. Please send me an e-mail. I am trying to get as much info on set up costs. Any contact info would also be helpful. Thank you.

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