Silver Diner celebrates 20th Anniversary

Silver-Diner
Silver Diner, photo circa 1992 by Larry Cultrera

The Silver Diner opened their flagship restaurant 20 years ago on the Rockville Turnpike in Rockville, Maryland. This was the beginning of a chain that currently numbers 16 outlets in Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey. The original diner shown above is the only one built in a factory while all others were either built on-site as freestanding buildings or at Mall locations.

Built by Kullman Industries in design collaboration with Richard J.S. Gutman and Charles Morris Mount, this diner lead the way in the retro-diner movement that developed subsequent to its completion. in 1989.

It was announced in the news within the last couple of days that the chain is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a new expanded menu as well as a brand-new 10,000 square foot diner that will replace the 1989 flagship as the headquarters. Here is the text from the Business Wire story….

ROCKVILLE, Md.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–After 20 years of continued growth, Silver Diner is responding to evolving consumer tastes by refreshing its brand of diners. In June, the company will roll out an expanded menu with healthier choices, 20 new “Blueplate” value meals, updated jukebox selections and a fresh look for wait staff.

Silver Diner also announced plans to open its largest restaurant in 2010 as it relocates from its flagship Rockville Pike location to a new site in Federal Plaza a quarter mile down the road. The new $4.5 million, 10,000-square-foot location will allow for expanded seating capacity, a newly-designed kitchen and advanced technology to serve its growing customer base. It will also become the company’s new corporate headquarters.

“From the boxcar to their current form, diners have always evolved to changing consumer needs and tastes,” said Robert Giamo, CEO and co-founder of Silver Diner. “In this economy, people are yearning for authentic comfort foods they know are a great value. At the same time, they also want healthier options for an on-the-go lifestyle. We are mixing the best of the old and new to ensure our brand remains timeless for a new generation of diners.”

As a thank you to its customers, and a throw back to the original diner days, Silver Diner will commemorate its 20th anniversary by offering cups of coffee for 20¢ on Friday, June 5 through Sunday, June 7. Proceeds from every cup of coffee sold will benefit Share our Strength, a non-profit organization that helps feed underprivileged children.

Silver Diner will kick off its 20th anniversary celebration on June 5, 2009, by rolling out its biggest menu ever. Twenty new “Blueplates” will feature classic favorites and healthier, contemporary choices, all at modest prices. With Breakfast Blueplates starting at $3.99, and Lunch and Dinner Blueplates at $5.99 and $8.99, Silver Diner’s menu will feature 95 items for under $10.

The new, healthier menu selections include Grilled Wasabi Salmon and Aloha Veggie Sliders, Mega Life Salad with Hummus, Grilled Flounder, Cajun Mahi-Mahi and Asian Skewered Chicken. Other new options offered are the Avocado Bacon Burger, Pesto Turkey Sliders and Bar Harbor Fish and Chips ― complementing Silver Diner’s popular selection of “Authentic American Classics” such as Big Bowl Chicken Pot Pie and “Major” Meatloaf.

“We spent a year traveling the country and examining emerging consumer and food trends ― like healthier comfort foods, lighter sauces, portion size options and fresher ingredients ― to create exciting new choices,” explains Ype Von Hengst, co-founder and Executive Chef. “Our new menu meets the changing tastes of our current guests, and is designed to attract a new generation of diner-lovers.”

Silver Diner hasn’t forgotten its littlest customers either, adding six new healthy kids’ meals, including Teriyaki Grilled Chicken Strips, Grilled Salmon, Barbeque Turkey Sliders and Flatbread Pizza. With 20 items, it will be one of the largest kids’ menus available at any restaurant.

Many other Silver Diner traditions have also been refreshed, including its famous shakes and floats. There is the new Acai Pomegranate Shake – for the health conscious – and the Peanut Butter Heath Bar Shake for everyone else.

Silver Diner is also responding to the wishes of its customers for a more diverse music selection by updating its tabletop jukeboxes with the best sounds of the 70’s and 80’s. The restaurant is giving all of its servers a mini-makeover as well, with new, retro-style uniforms.

In 1989, the original, iconic Silver Diner opened on Rockville Pike in Rockville, Maryland and was an overnight sensation. Today, it is among the busiest restaurants of its size in America, serving more than 10,000 customers weekly. Since then, Silver Diner has grown into one of the largest chains of diners in the country with 16 locations in Maryland, Virginia and New Jersey.

The 20th anniversary comes on the heels of the opening of two new Silver Diner divisions. In November 2007, the company launched Silver Diner Airport at BWI Airport. The concept “took off” and is on target to generate more than $5-million in annual sales. Last month, Silver Diner opened the second of its METRO locations in Annapolis, Md. METRO is the “Next Generation Diner,” a fast-casual concept for today’s healthier on-the-go lifestyles.

The Silver Diner family of 19 restaurants generates more than $50-million in sales and employs more than 1,500 people. For more information and a complete directory of locations, visit www.SilverDiner.com.

My question is, what is going to happen with this original diner?

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Old Route 1 Post Card new to the collection

A while back I had a post that featured an image that was an old landmark to me as a small child. The image was of a photo I shot back in the late 1980’s of the Half Dollar Bar sign that was derelict and in danger of being destroyed at that point in time. This was a very big landmark from my youth as it was, as you can probably see from the shape of the left hand side of the sign that this was actually Mister Peanut of Planters Peanut fame. It was for the former Planters Peanut store that was located at this site on U.S. Rte. 1 north in Peabody, Mass.

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I use the term landmark because I learned at a very early age what the word meant for a couple of reasons. Probably as a young child, there was a time when during a ride in the car with my family that I or one of my brothers would have asked “where are we”? My Dad might have advised us how to use a landmark to figure out where you are, especially if it was someplace we went all the time. Of course this was during the late 1950’s when Howard Johnson’s advertised as “The Landmark for Hungry Americans”.

So as a young child I was very observant and constantly used landmarks, especially on rides heading north on U.S. Rte. 1 from Saugus, Mass., which was where we entered the fabled roadway coming from Medford, our place of residence. You see Route 1 had  many landmarks as it was (and still is) a very busy business strip. That is an underlying reason for when I started actively collecting post cards, I ended up having a fairly large subcollection of Route 1 post cards.

After I started this blog (Diner Hotline has been online since October 31, 2007) I also became a regular visitor on Flickr. I started checking out a lot of Roadside Images that people from all over were shooting and posting. My fellow SCA colleague Debra Jane Seltzer, a regular contributor on Flickr posted a lot of her excellent photos from her travels. During a fairly long roadtrip Debra shot a couple of photos of the Large Mister Peanut sign that was on display at the Planters Peanut plant in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

I left a comment on Debra’s Flickr post that included that photo. I informed her that was in fact the former sign for the Planters Peanut Store that was located on Rte. 1 in Peabody. She responded that maybe it was not the one from Massachusetts as there must have been quite a few spread across the country. I informed her that yes, although there may have been quite a few Mister Peanut signs, (in fact I shot a photo of another one down on Rte. 6 in Southeastern Mass. not too long after I documented the Peabody one), that I recall the story of this one in particular.

Another fellow SCA colleague, Pete Phillips who was a City Planner for Gloucester, Mass. back in the late 1980’s was instrumental in saving the Mister Peanut sign from Peabody. After the Planters Peanut Store closed, it became the aforementioned Half Dollar Bar and the sign was repainted to make Mister Peanut look like a man in a tuxedo. By the late 1980’s the bar was closed and the building torn down, the only thing left was the sign which was also slated to be destroyed.

Pete contacted Planters Peanuts headquarters and informed them of the sign’s predicament. They became interested and decided to have the old Route 1 landmark shipped to their Fort Smith plant and spent some money to refurbish it. It has been on display at the plant ever since. When I was investigating this last year, I actually called the Fort Smith plant and talked with the Executive Assistant to the Plant Manager who confirmed the sign had come from the Boston Area in 1988.

In my previous post about this I ran Debra’s photo of the sign, see below…

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To finally get back to the title of this post, since that time I have been periodically searching on ebay for a possible post card of the old Planters Peanut Store on Route 1. I wasn’t sure it existed but seeing as there were post cards of other stores like it from around the country, there was a good possibility that one might have been printed. Sure enough a couple of weeks ago one showed up on ebay and was I so psyched! I bid on it and luckily no one else wanted it. So here it is in all it’s glory. It is certainly proof that the sign in Fort Smith was the one from Peabody!

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Diner Slide Show set for June 4, 2009

As stated in previous posts, I have completed the conversion of my “Diner” slide presentation from 35mm slides to PowerPoint recently. This was in preparation for the upcoming show for Historic Somerville (formerly called the Somerville Historical Society).

The presentation is entitled… The Evolution of Diners from Lunch Carts to Mega-Restaurants, 1872 to the Present, (subtitled The Ever Changing Appearence of the American Diner).

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The location for the Somerville Museum as stated above is on Westwood Road, at the corner of Central Street. It is in the section of Central Street that runs between Somerville Avenue and Highland Avenue.

I am excited to present this updated version of my Diner presentation because by converting it to PowerPoint and utilizing my Photoshop skills, I was able to enhance some “dark” photos and make them more viewable.

By the way, my “Local Roadside Memories” slide presentation for the Lynnfield Historical Society on Tuesday was a huge hit according to the feedback I received. It was certainly a fun evening!

Local Roadside Memories Slide Presentation this coming Tuesday

I just wanted to remind visitors to the Weblog that I am giving my “Local Roadside Memories” slide presentation this coming Tuesday, May 19th for the Lynnfield, Mass. Historical Society.

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Directions to the Lynnfield Historical Society, at the Old Meeting House on the Common in Lynnfield Centre – at the corner of Main and Summer Sts. Two miles on right after exiting (I-95) Rte. 128 at exit #41 onto Main St.

 I will also be doing this same presentation on June 16, 2009 at the Medford Public Library. This is the rescheduled one that was postponed from March 18th due to problems at the library on the day of the presentation.

June 4, 2009, I will be doing my Diner presentation (newly revised to Power Point from 35mm slides) at Somerville Museum (for Historic Somerville).

Notes from the Hotline, 5-8-2009

Connecticut’s Milford Diner may soon face the wrecking ball

MilfordCT
Milford Diner, photo copyright May, 1983 by Larry Cultrera
A late 1950’s vintage Silk City Diner with a DeRaffele vestibule at the entrance and an older barrel-roofed structure on the left side.

I first wrote about the Milford Diner of Milford, CT in the print version of Diner Hotline almost 6 years ago. It was in the Spring 2003 Issue of the SCA Journal, (apparently it was running late that year). In that earlier piece I mentioned how the diner was slated to close on August 15, 2003 when the Memaj family, longtime owners of the business were set to retire. They decided that with the rising cost of leasing the property coupled with increased competition from other area restaurants, they would just close the business and sell the building.

A group of local fans of the diner circulated a petition to hopefully keep the diner in place and even the Milford Preservation Trust declared it a significant historic structure. In fact the developers of the property had no plans to kick the diner out and that it could stay indefinitely. Along came customer John Lombard who made the decision to buy the diner and move it to a nearby stripmall he owned and get the diner back  open with the Memaj family running it. At least that was the plan, but alas it did not come to fruition. The diner has stayed vacant since it closed.

A May 5th, 2009 article in the Connecticut Post (ConnPost.com) by Frank Juliano updated the story with what looks like an ominous outlook.
Here is the text from that article….

Milford Diner to make way for parking

MILFORD — A demolition permit issued for the Milford Diner downtown is getting mixed reviews. The prefabricated, stainless steel building and its wooden annex have been vacant for more than five years, and several attempts to develop it have fallen through. Now it looks as if the iconic 1948 building will be giving way to badly needed parking, officials said.

“Obviously whoever owns it has the right to do whatever he wants with it,” said Robert Gregory, the city’s economic development director. “I think there is more sentimental value than actual value in it, and the different ideas for it haven’t happened. That’s where we’re at.” The land at 13-21 New Haven Ave., which has the diner, Vincent Jewelers and the SBC Restaurant on it, is owned by Paul Dumraese, of Milford, and is assessed for $893,000, 70 percent of the market value.

Dumraese said Tuesday that while his family has owned the site since the 1920s, several businesses have leased the land and owned the buildings on it. “We don’t own the diner, but a lot of people think that we do.” Developer Robert Smith, who with his partner owned the diner building and the fieldstone structure that houses SBC, said that his company sold the diner to the SBC Restaurant Group.

SBC owner William DaSilva did not return phone messages left for him at the restaurant’s Milford and Hamden locations on Tuesday, but downtown merchants speculated that the site would be used to expand the restaurant’s parking lot. From Thursday through Saturday, a valet parks cars for the popular restaurant, fitting them into the lot between SBC and the diner.

“It isn’t 75 years old, so that’s why I wasn’t notified,” City Historian Richard Platt said. A city ordinance requires that Platt be notified before a historic structure can be demolished. The Board of Aldermen is considering changes that would reduce that time period to 50 years and allow any interested party to sign up for notification. The city historian said the Milford Trust for Historic Preservation may look into the matter. “It is certainly something that we’re interested in,” Platt said. “The Connecticut Trust asked for a list of endangered properties and I gave them Harrison’s [hardware store on Broad Street], 417 Gulf Street and the diner.”

The Memaj family owned and operated the Milford Diner for nearly 40 years before retiring about five years ago. Developer Ronald Lombard briefly owned the structure and planned to move it to a shopping plaza he owns on Melba Street. When those plans fell through, Smith and his partner Philip Craft bought it and considered uses, including a women’s apparel store and a casual restaurant.

Members of the city’s Economic Development Commission discussed at their April 22 meeting using the diner building as a visitors center, citing its location between the harbor and the train station. “I was heartened by the EDC’s suggestion that this unique building could be put to good use,” said Susan Shaw, owner of the Collected Stories Bookstore. “It is an icon of downtown. Now, just a few weeks after their consideration was made public, to find that there is now a demolition permit for this 1948 structure makes my heart sink.”

Blue Belle Diner gets another new home

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Blue Belle Diner, photo copyright March, 1983 by Larry Cultrera

The Blue Belle Diner, Worcester Lunch Car # 814 circa 1948, spent all of it’s working life in Worcester, Mass., first on Chandler Street and then on Prescott Street.  A number of years ago (1998) it was forced to move from Prescott Street when the site was slated to be developed.

It then was moved first to Shrewsbury, Mass., then Milford, Mass. and finally Princeton, Mass. It changed hands almost each time it was moved and each new owner had hopes to reuse the diner and ironically none of these plans ever materialized. A piece written by Sandy Meindersma from today’s Worcester Telegram continues the saga….

 Blue Belle Diner is relocated to Dinky’s

Shrewsbury – After a stint in Princeton, the Blue Belle Diner has moved again, this time back to Shrewsbury. Bruce Trotto, owner of Dinky’s Restaurant, had the vintage-style diner relocated to his restaurant property, where he intends to use the diner to expand his seating and operating hours.

The 12-mile move took place late Wednesday night, with the assistance of Guaranteed Builders, which moved the diner, and the state police, who coordinated traffic. “It went very smoothly,” Mr. Trotto said. “It only took about half an hour.” The diner, which was built in 1948, has made its way around Worcester County, with stops in Shrewsbury, Milford, Worcester and Princeton.

In Worcester, it was at 86 Chandler St. from 1963 to 1972 and then was moved to 47 Prescott St., where it became a favorite hangout for students from Worcester Vocational and North High schools. It was moved from Prescott Street to Shrewsbury in 1998. Mr. Trotto bought the diner from Stephen P. Zottoli, owner of the Mountain Barn Restaurant, with the idea of incorporating it into his restaurant on Route 70 in Shrewsbury.

“It will be additional seating,” Mr. Trotto said. “And there will be a new entrance, a new kitchen and there will be an ice cream shop around the back.” Dinky’s Restaurant, which has 35 seats, is open for breakfast and lunch, but Mr. Trotto expects to extend the hours to include dinner once the addition has been completed. Mr. Trotto said he worked two years on the permitting, and expects to have a building permit by the end of June. “Then it will take four to six months to build,” he said.

T&G Blue Belle
New owner Bruce Trotto with Blue Belle Diner, photo courtesy
of  T&G Staff/Dan Gould

Hooray!! Fred’s Franks is open for the season!!

One of my favorite spots to get a quick meal is a small home-made trailer set up near the traffic rotary off exit 40 of I-95 (Rte. 128) on Rte. 129 at the head of Lake Quonapowitt in Wakefield, Mass. It is called Fred’s Franks and in the last 4 or 5 years has become quite popular.

Fred's-Franks-2
That’s Fred Rex holding forth behind the Big Green Egg

Fred cooks on a Big Green Egg Cooker and uses only Pearl Hot Dogs (Pearl Meat Packing Co. of Boston). He also features Kielbasa, Chorico, and Linguica along with home-made relishes. Check out his website at….  http://www.fredsfranks.com/ 
and also for more info on the Big Green Egg … http://www.biggreenegg.com/

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Lowell, Mass’. Owl Diner nears completion of new vestibule!

Back in December I posted about the 4 Sister’s Owl Diner of Lowell, Mass. obtaining grant money to facilitate the construction of a larger entry vestibule  on the diner’s front wall, see https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2008/12/14/lowell-massachusetts-four-sisters-owl-diner-gets-make-over/

I also mentioned in that post the fact that Richard Gutman consulted with the Shanahan’s (The Owl’s owners) about the design for the new vestibule. Knowing Dick as I do it was to be obvious that any new addition would be historically sympathetic to the original design of the diner. Because the larger vestibule would take up a good portion of the front wall thereby hiding the original polychrome porcelain enamel panels/graphics, the Shanahan’s and Dick had decided on having new porcelain steel panels created for the whole front of the diner w/new vestibule.

Dick had contacted Cherokee Porcelain Enamel Co. for a quote on the needed materials. They also informed him that they needed “Vectorized” Drawings to design the job. Dick called me up and asked if I wanted to help and I of course said yes. I took Dick’s hand-drawn mechanical drawings and recreated them in Adobe Illustrator (25 drawings in all) and when all sizes were finalized I sent them off to Cherokee.

The new panels were delivered recently and the first few were installed on the vestibule within the last week. Denise and I met with Dick & Kellie Gutman yesterday at the Owl to view the progress. We were happy to see that the installed panels fit very well across the front of the new addition including the rounded corners. Here are some shots of the progress from yesterday….

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Looking at the interior (prior to completion) we were also impressed with the contractor’s workmanship on the framework as well as his attention to detail. Tom Shanahan informed us the stainless steel trim around the exterior windows was being fabricated along with the new front door. The interior of the new vestibule will feature tile work replicating the interior tile work in evidence inside the diner. We will continue to follow the progress and keep you informed in upcoming posts.