Bel-Aire Diner, 1952 – 2012, Goodbye old friend!

Regular readers of Diner Hotline know that I have been following the saga of the Bel-Aire Diner of Peabody, Mass. for quite a while.  This diner was one of the closest to where I live, located about 4 miles north of Saugus on U.S. Route 1. Built by the Mountain View Diner Company (Car No. 359), it was bought brand-new in 1952 by brothers Peter & Bill Kallas, the diner remained being operated by members of the Kallas family until it closed abruptly around a half dozen years ago. Immediately after it closed it had two bright yellow banners that stated “Closed for Renovation” hanging from the front on either side of the entryway. Somehow though, I had a strong feeling that it would probably never reopen.


front of Bel-Aire Diner Breakfast Menu, circa 1980’s. From the
collection of Larry Cultrera


back of Bel-Aire Diner Breakfast Menu, circa 1980’s. From the
collection of Larry Cultrera

Prior to the diner being closed there had been reports that the Kallas family had been talking about redeveloping the site for quite some time. At one point, they were hoping to lease the property for a Hooters Restaurant but the City of Peabody was not willing to go along with those plans. Then within a few years of the diner’s closing, a large poster type sign was hung on the sign supports for the adjacent Gas Station (also owned by the Kallas’). The poster depicted a large building that would be built to house businesses related to the truck stop, including the diner and gas station. The new building was to be built around and over the diner (only the diner’s front facade was to be visible).

See…… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/04/10/notes-from-the-hotline-4-10-2010/

Before the plans were put into motion it was announced that the tenant for the restaurant portion of the new development was going to be the people who operate Red’s Sandwich Shop in downtown Salem. The new restaurant was to be called Red’s Kitchen and Tavern. About this time, I saw newly revised architectural drawings of the building and it looked different. The biggest difference was that the diner did not seem to be included anymore, an ominous sign to be sure!

See…… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/bel-aire-diner-to-become-reds-kitchen-tavern/


the earliest known postcard image of the Bel-Aire Diner. From the
collection of Larry Cultrera


The second version of a Bel-Aire Diner postcard, it had aquirred awnings and the sign colors were changed. From the collection of Larry Cultrera

Soon there after, the diner was readied to be moved out of the way for the developers to start on the project, see……. https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/08/28/notes-from-the-hotline-8-28-2010/

and…. https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/bel-aire-diner-goes-airborne/

It was also announced that the diner was For Sale, see….

https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/more-bel-aire-diner-info-from-salem-news/
The diner stayed up on cribbing in the front of the property all thru the winter of 2010-11. See…….

https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/notes-from-the-hotline-3152011/

In March of 2011 it was relocated to the extreme right corner at the back of the property. John Kallas was still hoping to sell the diner at this point.
See…… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/new-storage-spot-for-bel-aire-diner/

photo on the back cover of a vinyl E.P. by The Peter Calo Band (a local band). circa 1983. The photo was shot with the band members sitting in the corner booth of the Bel-Aire Diner. From the collection of Larry Cultrera

As I just happen to drive by the diner 1 to 2 times a day during a normal work week (Monday thru Friday), I have been able to keep an eye on the situation. I also keep informed thru Google news alerts ( for Diners) and of course rely on the unofficial network of “Diner people” for tidbits, etc. In a recent news article, John Kallas was quoted as saying that if there were no buyers for the diner come springtime, he would make the decision to have the diner scrapped. Within the last 2 weeks, Randy Garbin of Roadside Online http://www.roadsideonline.com/ reported that he got a message from John Kallas stating that if anyone wanted the diner, he was willing to give it away to anyone who would arrange to remove it from the property.

This news really meant it was nearing the end for the old stainless steel diner! Steve Harwin of Diversified Diners (Cleveland, Ohio), who in my opinion is the premier diner restorationist in the world, had been apprised of the situation and contacted Kallas. After a short conversation or 2 between Kallas and Harwin, as well as a little soul searching and some number crunching, Harwin decided he could not make the commitment to save this one unfortunately.

These next few photos are pretty much my earliest images that I shot of the Bel-Aire Diner……..


January, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera


January, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera


January, 1981 photo by Larry Cultrera


September, 1982 photo (at sunset) by Larry Cultrera

This next photo was shot circa 1990 by my buddy, Steve Repucci. I wanted some photos taken of me for a Society for Commercial Archeology (SCA) publication and this was one of those photos…..


man, what a difference 22 years make!

As I drove by the Bel-Aire on this past Monday after work, things looked pretty much the same, but by Tuesday afternoon it was a completely different story! Just as I was approaching the diner I just happened to give Randy Garbin a call to ask him what he thought about the possibility that Dave Pritchard from Salisbury might be interested in rescuing the diner. As the phone was ringing I glanced over at the diner and saw a dumpster as well as the left end of the diner already dismantled! Randy answered the phone and I told him what was happening. We both knew that this was it, the diner was pretty much history.

I was on my way home as my wife Denise and I had an appointment to meet a tradesman about some work we were planning on having done, so I knew I could not get my camera and go back for some photos. I did bring my camera to work with me the next day and was planning on getting over to the diner possibly at lunch to see if I could get some photos. I decided to see what was up and stopped at approximately 5:40 AM. I was able to pull right up almost to the fence that surrounded the diner and shine my high beam headlights on the what was left of the structure. It was demo’d back from the left end by a couple of windows as the next 3 images will show…..


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Once I had seen how much was gone, I made the decision to get back sooner than lunch break to get more photos in daylight as I figured if I waited longer, there would not be anything left. I got back to the diner just before 9:00 AM and took the next bunch of shots…..


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


That is Doug Earp, owner of D.R. Earp Interior Demolition Co.
March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


Richard Currie of RC Recycling of Brentwood Inc. speaking with Doug Earp.
March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera


Final shot before I went back to work.
March 14, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Before I left work for the day, I checked Facebook and saw that Gary Thomas had been by the site and the photo he posted showed the very last section of the diner (a small section of roof from the right end) left to be crunched and tossed into the dumpster. By the way, there were at least 3 dumpsters full of debris! I drove by just after 3:30 PM and there was nothing left of the old diner!

Well I can say I have had many a meal there over the last 30 years and I believe it is a shame that no one could have saved this diner so it could have possibly had another life at a different location. I am sure I will probably check out Red’s Kitchen and Tavern when they open for business in the near future, but I know it just won’t be the same!

12 thoughts on “Bel-Aire Diner, 1952 – 2012, Goodbye old friend!

    • Elaine, with respect to Guy Fieri, he is not someone I would consider to rescue an old diner. He is a TV personality who happens to run some restaurants. What the Bel-Aire Diner really needed was someone with “Deep Pockets” and a strong desire to relocate, restore and reopen a classic diner. Mr. Fieri is not that guy.

  1. This is so sad, there are hardly anymore around and their history…. It’s too bad that the young ones won’t enjoy what we had…. .beautiful building it’s just so sad.

  2. We lost a perfect WWII veterans’ housing Quonset Hut in Hamilton 2 years ago because nobody cared. We got good photos of the inside and exterior before the big claw ripped it to pieces. Now a nondescript 2 story house lives on the lot.

    Apathy is the enemy of so much that is worth saving. This diner is a good example.

  3. I remember the Bel-Aire with such fond memories. In the 1960’s my Dad would take my sister and I there as a special treat. He would give each of us some coins and we would take turns playing our favorite “record” on the jukebox in the booth. Great times.

  4. I would like to fine one close to KY and have it moved to my lot and reopen it. Like the good old days . We just don’t have many here. To see them destroyed makes you sick.

  5. I worked as a waitress there in the early 70’s…It was one of my first ever jobs in high school. I lived behind up the road on Forest St. There were many good and happy memories there. The entire area is changed, my old home is gone and so are the woods. Thanks for the pictures.

  6. These articles on the Bel Aire Diner really tug on all the wonderful memories I hold – to see all the pictures – its sad that we don’t have it today. Enjoyed many a meal there and many cups of coffee with friends. The good old days. Thank you for the story of its beginning to its ending – and for the many pictures.

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