Notes from the Hotline, 12-26-2011


Southwest Diner chain, 5 & Diner sets plans in motion with expansion program. Has new connections to Massachusetts

5 & Diner, a 1950’s retro-diner chain started in Phoenix, Arizona back in 1989 has announced new expansion plans that have a local connection to Massachusetts. According to the info below that was reported in an article on, the chain currently has 12 outlets in five states, including one here in the Bay State. Back in 2007 I was watching the locally produced “Phantom Gourmet”  TV show and they did a piece on the newly opened (August, 2006) 5 & Diner located at 525 Lincoln Street in Worcester, Mass. Up until that time I had no knowledge that one of these had been opened up this way!

So on February 24, 2007 I took a ride out to Worcester with my brother Rick and pal Steve Repucci to check this place out. One thing I found curious is that the restaurant did not open until 7:00 am, which is late for this area. Especially in Worcester as there are so many classic diners that in fact do open earlier.

5 & Diner @ 525 Lincoln Street, Worcester. Feb. 24, 2007 exterior photo
by Larry Cultrera

5 & Diner @ 525 Lincoln Street, Worcester. Feb. 24, 2007 exterior photo
by Larry Cultrera

5 & Diner @ 525 Lincoln Street, Worcester. Feb. 24, 2007 interior photo
by Larry Cultrera

These diners are built on site although I understand it comes in prefabricated pieces like a kit (this is unsubstantiated). The news piece below mentions the new ownership of  5 & Diner as Bob and Laurie Watson of LPM Holding Company located in Maynard, Mass. They were the ones who opened the Worcester location. Anyway the company is starting a new franchise program and have contracted with two national firms to help with the undertaking. Below is the piece from with all the details…..

’50s-style restaurant franchise forms Strategic Partnerships to help with Re-Launch of franchise program

Maynard, MA  (  As part of its aggressive franchise growth plan to bring back the roadside diner experience across the country, 5 & Diner has announced strategic relationships with retail commercial real estate service provider Cassidy Turley and retail construction specialists Northboro Builders, to help potential franchisees with site selection and store build outs.

What started in 1989 as a one-store concept in Phoenix quickly became known throughout the region as the most authentic, unique, and cool ‘50s diner experience in the country. The franchise, which has developed over the years to 12 locations in five states, is entering a new stage of growth as it looks to propel the brand name throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions by attracting new franchisees with a fresh prototype, revamped menu and new leadership.

5 & Diner’s relationship with Cassidy Turley, a leading commercial real estate services provider, will ensure proper execution of site search and real estate processes.

“We’re looking forward to partnering with 5 & Diner and supporting their identification and selection of properties across the nation,” said Rick Bagy, Vice President of Cassidy Turley. “We’ve built a scalable growth model that enables our restaurant and retail clients to open more than 4,000 locations annually and we’re excited to help 5 & Diner reach their growth goals with the right locations.”

In addition, the partnership with Northboro Builders will assist franchisees with turn-key packages that include architecture, construction, project management and permitting, for opening new restaurants.

“I have been working closely with 5 & Diner as they plan their national expansion of the brand. I applaud the team they have assembled and their dedication to enhancing the concept and having the best product possible for their new franchisees,” said Ken Nahigian, Vice President of Business Development & Operations with Northboro Builders. “Northboro Builders is unique in our complete turn-key approach to national franchise build-outs and we look forward to contributing to 5 & Diner’s inevitable success.”

To help attract new franchisees, 5 & Diner has launched a new prototype designed to lower development costs and introduce a non-freestanding development option. The authenticity and unique nature of the business means that franchise competition is nearly nonexistent – as an authentic ‘50s diner concept, 5 & Diner isn’t just another burger joint or family dining chain. And with locations currently in five states there is plenty of room to grow. Typical development costs range from $450,000-$750,000 and the average unit sales volume is more than $1.1 million.

Heralded and loved for its classic ‘50s décor complete with chrome, bright lights, juke boxes and open seating, 5 & Diner is cashing in on the $33 billion family dining segment. To inquire about franchise opportunities, visit

About 5 & Diner

Founded in Phoenix, Arizona in 1989, 5 & Diner has become known for its no-holds-barred ‘50s flashback theme, top-quality food at an affordable price, and award-winning burgers and shakes. Currently with 12 locations across five states, 5 & Diner prides itself on providing the customer with the most authentic ‘50s diner experience in America. In 2008, 5 & Diner was purchased by Bob and Laurie Watson of LPM Holding Company, Inc. with a vision to spread the company across the nation and share the joy that it brings them everyday. For franchise opportunities, visit, and for general information visit

About Northboro Builders

Northboro Builders, Inc. is a retail construction specialist established in 1998 that provides self-performing construction and project management for retail store projects nationwide. The company offers complete turn-key packages which include architecture, construction, project management and permitting. From coast to coast, Northboro gives every job the same meticulous attention to detail while setting and meeting tight deadlines. Visit for more information.

About Cassidy Turley

Cassidy Turley is a leading commercial real estate services provider with more than 3,400 professionals in more than 60 offices nationwide. The company represents a wide range of clients—from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, from local non-profits to major institutions. The firm completed transactions valued at $18 billion in 2010, manages 455 million square feet on behalf of private, institutional and corporate clients and supports more than 25,000 domestic corporate services locations. Cassidy Turley serves owners, investors and occupiers with a full spectrum of integrated commercial real estate services—including capital markets, tenant representation, corporate services, project leasing, property management, project and development services, and research and consulting. In 2010, the firm enhanced its global service delivery outside of North America through its partnership with GVA. Visit for more information.

I will be keeping tabs on this to see what future developments occur!

L.A.’s Phil’s Diner closes after only being open for 8 months

After spending thousands of dollars and 12 plus years of time, Phil’s Diner in the NoHo section of L.A. was opened to a lot of fanfare close to 8 months ago. Restored and reopened by Malissa and Casey Hallenbeck, they hoped it would help herald the beginning of a new era, not just for this 1920’s vintage diner but for the burgeoning neighborhood.

According to Richard Gutman’s American Diner Then & Now, Phil’s Diner was more than likely built by Charles Amend, a transplanted Easterner who quite possibly had previously worked for P.J. Teirney Sons prior to coming to California. Originally part of J.F. (Phil) Phillips’s chain of diners This diner closed by 1998 and needed to be relocated because of a proposed new North Hollywood Metro Red Line Station.

old snapshot of Phil’s Diner at it’s old location from my collection
I’m not sure whose photo this is or where I even got it from.
(I seem to recall a John Baeder connection)

I received this photo by Joe Freeman, Circa 2001

I received this photo by Joe Freeman, Circa 2001

I received this photo by Joe Freeman, Circa 2001

Phil’s Diner Fresh n’ Fast prior to reopening. Photo from Phil’s Diner
Facebook page

Here is a report dated 12/20/2011 from the Daily News Los Angeles website by Gregory J. Wilcox, Staff Writer….

Phil’s Diner closes in NoHo, seeks new owner

Phil’s Diner, which brought some nostalgic panache to the NoHo’s Arts District in its brief second life, has closed. For now. The $1.1 million undertaking fell victim to bad timing, said Casey and Malissa Hallenbeck, the former owners who closed the retro eatery on Dec. 11, eight months after opening it.

Construction activity at the adjacent Laemmle NoHo 7, an art house film complex that opens today, hurt business as did the weak economy, the Hallenbecks said. “We’re going to try to recover financially as much as possible…and move forward,” said Casey Hallenbeck, who is also a set decorator in the entertainment industry. The longtime North Hollywood residents said they invested $600,000 of their own money in the project and the City of Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency contributed $460,000. The 1920s era diner underwent an extensive restoration and was moved from the west side of Lankershim to the east side.

But this is not the end of Phil’s. NoHo developer JH Snyder Co. is in the process of taking over ownership and will find a new owner for the 26-seat diner with an outdoor patio. And it looks like this might not be a tough task.

“Folks right now are coming to us,” said Kacy Keys, Snyder’s senior vice president and general counsel. “We’ve gotten four or five phone calls so far and the Hallenbecks brought someone in to see us as well.” The Hallenbecks had a 25-year lease on the property in the 5400 block of Lankershim Boulevard with options for 30 more years.

“We wanted them to succeed. We’re sorry to see them go but we’re happy to see other parties interested,” Keys said. The redevelopment agency is comfortable with the situation, too. “It’s unfortunate the operator was unable to make a go of it, but we’re optimistic that Snyder will be able to quickly find another operator that can ensure that Phil’s Diner continues serving the Valley for decades to come,” spokesman David Bloom said in an email.

Malissa Hallenbeck said the diner closing just before the theater next door opens “does seem kind of ironic.” “It also is a telltale sign that it’s not our time to move forward,” she said. “Personally I feel that I’ve grown a lot and I’ve learned a lot. Situations like this really remind you what’s important, like health, family and a marriage.”

Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who represents North Hollywood, said the diner’s closure is a temporary setback for the district. “I’m sorry our friends at Phil’s Diner were not able to weather the startup. We can’t control every wind and it was a windy time to get started,” he said. And today’s opening of the theater complex is the most important development for NoHo since the Red Line subway, LaBonge noted.

The theater and diner will eventually get a chance to complement each other, said Keys. “We think there is a strong market there and the theater will make it even stronger,” she said. Nancy Bianconi, editor of, a community website, is also sad that the Hallenbecks could not find success. “Everybody in the community was waiting for Phil’s to open and I can tell you from personal experience the food was good,” she said. “I’m hoping that Melissa and Casey can go onto the next chapter. I’m glad they stuck with it so that Phil’s Diner has a new life.”

The Hallenbecks acquired the diner in 1998 with plans to restore it. And Casey Hallenbeck considers that part of the project a success. “My love was not running a restaurant. It was the love of the project — to build it and restore it — and put it there for the community,” he said.

Providence, Rhode Island Diner set to make comeback

I received this email announcement about Poirier’s Diner from Richard Gutman yesterday. Poirier’s Diner, which has been in storage for a number of years is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Poirier’s Diner, operating as the Sandwich Factory in the early 1980’s
Photo by Larry Cultrera

Subject: Immediate Release – Historic Diner Being Moved on Tuesday, December 13th – Immediate Release

The historic Poirier’s Diner (a 1947 Kullman, the second Diner in Rhode Island to be individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places) is on the move!
For more than 50 years, and under many different names, such as “Armand’s, Krystal’s, the Top Hat, Arnold’s and most recently, the El Faro, the Diner served the working men and women of Olneyville at its location on Atwells Avenue at Eagle Square. Saved from the wrecking ball when Eagle Square was mostly demolished, on this coming Tuesday the 13th, the Diner will be placed on a truck and rolled down the block to its new home at 1380 Westminster Street on Providence’s historic West Side.

Developer Jon Özbek has begun a full scale renovation of the diner with the help of BankRI, General Contractor Stack Design / Build of Providence, the RI Historic Preservation & Heritage Commission, the Providence Revolving Fund, and MODA, LLC. This project represents a significant investment in the City’s burgeoning West Side business community, while it will also create new jobs.
This restaurant will be the fourth collaboration between Jon Özbek and Michael Sears, who together have brought Loie Fuller’s, The Avery, and Ama’s to the West Side of Providence.  The Diner will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7 days a week. And it will feature  an updated version of classic American Diner fare, along with a full bar and outdoor patio seating.  It is expected to open in the Spring / Summer of 2012.
Stay tuned for details.
Jon Özbek, Manager
Kismetro, LLC
Crescent Partners LLC
1455 Westminster Street, LLC
18-20 Luongo Memorial Square LLC
Cerberus, LLC

End of an Era as Kullman Building Corp. goes under

The Garfield Diner of Pottsville, PA is a classic 1950’s Kullman Diner

The company long known as Kullman Industries and more recently trading under the name Kullman Buildings Corporation has reportedly gone out of business. Started in 1927 as Kullman Diners by Samuel Kullman, it was one of the longest lived companies in the diner industry. Although with corporate restructuring and new ownership in recent years, the company focused on what they termed “offsite” construction, building all types of modular structures from schools, prisons and other non-commercial applications and basically dropped diners from their product line.

Kullman Diner Builders Tag from the 1950’s

The Fillin’ Station Whately Diner in Whately, Mass. is a Kullman Diner
Circa 1960 vintage.

Kullman Industries Builders Tag from the 1980’s

A view of the old Kullman Factory in Avenel, NJ from 1983.
That’s my blue 1979 Chevy Van in front.

The Route 9 Diner in Hadley, Mass. is a Kullman Diner Circa 2000

A recent logo for the company

here is a link to a news piece about the auction…

Auction of Kullman Building Corp. Assets Set for Tuesday, Dec. 13 Under Direction of Alco Capital, Assignee for Benefit
of Creditors

–Tiger/Daley-Hodkin retained to conduct live and online auction targeting modular building manufacturers, contractors, small businesses and homeowners 

LEBANON, N.J., Dec. 7, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — An auction of the assets of pre-manufactured and modular building company Kullman Building Corp. is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, December 13 under the direction of Alco Capital Group, Inc., Assignee for the Benefit of Creditors.  The sale will be conducted at the company’s site at 1 Kullman Corporate Campus Drive in Lebanon and online by auctioneer Tiger/Daley-Hodkin, which was retained by Alco Capital and confirmed by the Court.

The auction will include metalworking and fabrication, welding, woodworking, painting and spray booth equipment, as well as rolling stock, modular buildings, building materials, fixtures, and other assets. On-site previews will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., on Saturday, December 10; Monday, December 12, and on the day of sale. The auction will get under way at 10:00 a.m., next Tuesday.

Elaborating on the assets being auctioned, Jeff Tanenbaum, president of Tiger’s Remarketing Services Division, said:  “The sale offers a diverse mix of items catering to all types of buyers.  Other modular building manufacturers may appreciate the Peddinghaus state-of-the-art thermal steel fabricator or Lincoln robotic welding system, while small businesses and the general public will have an opportunity to bid on hundreds of power tools, trucks, smaller machinery and Kullman’s inventory of bathroom fixtures and building supplies. Throw in the company’s selection of office furniture and computers, and this is definitely a ‘something for everyone’ type of auction.”

Kullman Building Corp. traces its roots to 1927, when Sam Kullman started a modular-building business to create prefabricated diners. As the popularity of the roadside eateries waned, the company morphed into building products for new markets. More recently, Kullman produced prefabricated housing, dormitories, prisons, schools, banks, equipment enclosures, offices, and bathrooms.

Alco Capital was confirmed as Assignee by the Superior Court of New Jersey-Hunterdon County on October 21, 2011.  The Court confirmed Tiger/Daley-Hodkin as auctioneer on December 6. Under an assignment for the benefit of creditors (“ABC”), the insolvent entity (the “Assignor”) transfers legal and equitable title, as well as custody and control of its property, to a third party (the “Assignee”) in trust. Proceeds of the asset dispositions are released by the Assignee to the Assignor’s creditors in accord with priorities established by law.

The creditors and debtor in this case concluded that an ABC should be a quicker and less expensive option than a traditional bankruptcy, according to Alco Capital.

For more information on the Kullman auction or to bid online, visit:

Thanks to Ron Dylewski to bringing this news to my attention and to Dick Gutman for “The End of an Era” term for the title of this post.

Notes from the Hotline, December 4, 2011

Fourth Author Event in Webster

We had another nice Author Event yesterday, this time at Booklovers’ Gourmet located at 55 East Main Street (Route 12) in Webster, Mass. It is a small store set in the first floor of an old house packed with new and used books, as well as a small selection of gifts and artwork for sale. They also have a decent selection of coffee’s, tea’s and chai’s along with some fresh pastry from a bakery in nearby Putnam, CT. Owner Debra Horan was very nice and we met some customers who purchased my book. For those who could not make it, the remainder of her stock (of Classic Diners of Mass.) have been signed for anyone who wants to purchase it.

Left to right, Denise Cultrera, Larry Cultrera and owner Debra Horan
at Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster. Photo by Lorraine Ostrokolowicz

Original Dunkin Donut store gets a retro revamp

The original Dunkin Donut store located at 543 Southern Artery in Quincy, Mass. has just received a quick 11-day renovation that has the place looking like a modern version of its 1950’s look. The store located near the corner of Bracket Street and the Southern Artery (Route 3A), was first opened in 1948 by Bill Rosenberg, (the founder of Dunkin Donuts) under the name “Open Kettle” and was an adjunct to his other business, Industrial Luncheon Service.

By 1950 Rosenberg decided  the name of the store needed to reflect the actual product that he was selling, basically coffee and donuts.  That is when the name changed to Dunkin Donuts.

Publicity photo from Dunkin Donuts featuring the original Quincy location.
A fair number of the Dunkin Donuts locations in the Boston area have an enlargement of this hanging somewhere prominently in the stores.

The signage was notable with the letters “in” actually dipping down lower than the other letters symbolizing the “Dunkin” part of the name. The building has gone thru many “looks” over the last 60 years, reflecting the chains appearance in any given time. The new renovation represents a retro look back in a modern sort of way! It even has a small “L” shaped counter with fixed stools evoking the feeling and ambiance that the early stands had.

I first heard about this from the Boston Globe, November 30, 2011 in an article written by Christina Reinwald for the business section of that day’s newspaper. I would put a link to the article but you now have to be a subscriber to read it. That’s technology for you! Anyway, after reading the article, I decided a quick trip was in order to shoot a few photos and today (Sunday) seemed to be the ideal time.

So, on the way over Denise and I went and had breakfast at the Wheelhouse Diner (also in Quincy) and boy, that place was hopping when we got there. Grill-man extraordinaire, Doug Showstead was his usual pleasant and efficient self. He always makes us feel welcome and told me at least 10 people have come into the diner in the last month or so and mentioned about the appearance of the Wheelhouse in my Classic Diners of Mass. book.

After breakfast we drove over to Dunkin Donuts so I could take my photos. As you can see, the new signage is a smaller version of the original, only with backlit plastic covered letters instead of neon.

Original Dunkin Donut store at 543 Southern Artery in Quincy, Mass. December 4, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Original Dunkin Donut store at 543 Southern Artery in Quincy, Mass. December 4, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Original Dunkin Donut store at 543 Southern Artery in Quincy, Mass. December 4, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera
I was standing in the middle of the street to get this shot, thank goodness it was a Sunday morning!

A close-up of the little plaque they have to the right of the entrance announcing that this is the first Dunkin Donut store, circa 1950.

This little project was a combined effort between the franchisee and the Corporate Headquarters of Dunkin Donuts to make the store look the way it does. According to the report, this will be the only Dunkin Donut outlet to reflect this style! Overall, I like the look and always enjoy when a company makes a nod to their past. I applaud all involved.