A tale of 2 Twins (Diners, that is)

Twin Bridge Diner, AKA Rosie’s Diner

Back in the early days of diner hunting I was down in the Groton, Connecticut area one day (July 10, 1983 to be specific) when I stumbled upon the Twin Bridge Diner, another later model Silk City diner very similar to Norm’s Diner also of Groton. I had already documented Norm’s on an earlier excursion the previous year (Sept. 18, 1982). The Twin Bridge Diner seemed to be doing a great business that day and I got the best photos I could considering all the vehicles parked around  the building.

I was coming out of the parking lot of the Twin Bridge Diner when I saw this across the side street from the diner. I could not resist taking this photo!
July 10, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

Twin Bridge Diner, Groton, CT – July 10, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

Twin Bridge Diner, Groton, CT – July 10, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

Twin Bridge Diner, Groton, CT – July 10, 1983 photo by Larry Cultrera

By 1988 or so, this diner changed owners as well as names becoming Rosie’s Diner and continued to operate until September of 2005. The owners decided to replace this diner with a brand-new diner built by Mike Risko’s Classic Diners out of Michigan (thanks to Mike Engle for clearing that up) and renamed the new place the “Oh Boy Diner”. Incidently, the new diner did not fare so well and closed within a fairly short time. I just read that 5 Guys Burgers & Fries were slated to take over the building as of April of 2011.

Meanwhile, the old diner was bought by Steve Harwin of Diversified Diners and was transported to his property in Cleveland, OH. Steve’s plan, as always was to eventually find a buyer who wanted a 1950’s vintage modern stainless-steel diner. When the prospective buyer would come forward, then Steve would have his team of workers do some needed updating and restoration/rehabbing prior to the new owners taking delivery of the diner.

Well fairly recently (late 2011) those new owners came into the picture. That would be Jeff and Vonnie Castree of Baraboo, Wisconsin. They are naming the new restaurant the Broadway Diner. Steve Harwin sent some photos along a couple of weeks ago showing the diner starting the trek from Cleveland to Baraboo in mid-April, 2012 …..

The former Rosie’s Diner/Twin Bridge Diner moving from Cleveland to Baraboo, WI to become the Broadway Diner.
April 2012 photo by Steve Harwin

The former Rosie’s Diner/Twin Bridge Diner moving from Cleveland to Baraboo, WI to become the Broadway Diner.
April 2012 photo by Steve Harwin

Interior of the soon to be Broadway Diner of Baraboo, WI
April, 2012 photo by Steve Harwin

I wish Jeff and Vonnie Castree good luck with their new endeavor!

Twin Diner, AKA Spicy’s Bar-B-Que

I first knew of the Twin Diner of Riverhead, Long Island from a John Baeder painting. The Twin Diner was apparently two 1920’s vintage barrel roof diners that were placed side-by-side, end-wise to the street. John’s painting was actually of an interesting detail that was part of the linoleum tiled floor on the inside of the left-hand section of the diner. It was a cool little graphic, (almost primitive) showing as John put it…. “the little frivolous chef dancing the diner boogie”!

Scanned with permission from Page 82 of John Baeder’s book “Diners”

Well on one of my early trips to document diners on Long Island (September 22, 1984), you can be sure I wanted to see if the Twin Diner was still there. It actually was….. sort of. It had become Spicy’s Bar-B-Que and was not actually operating as a diner. The right-hand side had what was left of the counter, now sans stools and being used as a serving counter. The left-hand side was now exclusively the dining area with chairs and tables.

Interior of right-hand side of Spicy’s Bar-B-Que of Riverhead, Long Island
September 22, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Interior of left-hand side of Spicy’s Bar-B-Que of Riverhead, Long Island,
notice the inlaid graphics in the linoleum. Unfortunately, our little chef was missing! September 22, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

This configuration of 2 diners being attached has been termed a “Diner graft” and interestingly, it seems Kullman Diners came in circa the 1950’s and modernized the 2 1920’s vintage diners. This was done primarily by “wrapping” the street ends of both diners in a new stainless-steel facade making the the 2 diners look like one new diner as seen in this photo below.

Front view of Spicy’s Bar-B-Que of Riverhead, Long Island
September 22, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Side view of Spicy’s Bar-B-Que of Riverhead, Long Island. Here you can see the back section of the untouched left-hand barrel roof structure.
September 22, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Back view of Spicy’s Bar-B-Que of Riverhead, Long Island. Here you can see the 2 side-by-side diners. They actually have been extended back from the original cars. September 22, 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Recently I have heard from a friend of John Baeder by the name of Susan Walter. She contacted me to let me know of an Ebay auction she had of an old snapshot of the Twin Diner. I decided to bid on it and did actually get it. Below is the actual snapshot the way it looks, with blemishes and all….

Here is the same photo with some enhancement and cleaning up in photoshop…..

Introducing Bob & Laurie Watson, owners of the 5 & Diner chain of restaurants

Back in December I did a little blurb in a “Notes from the Hotline” about the 5 & Diner chain of “Diner concept” restaurants and how the company was poised for a major expansion, see….
https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/notes-from-the-hotline-12-26-2011/. When I posted that I noticed how there was a fairly new Massachusetts connection to this chain of restaurants that was started in 1989 by Ken Higginbotham in Phoenix, Arizona. The connection happened to be the fact that the people who bought the only New England franchise back in 2006 (and opened it in Worcester, Mass.) were Bob & Laurie Watson.

image courtesy of 5 & Diner

When the Watsons bought the franchise they had also obtained the right of first refusal in the event that Higginbotham ever decided to sell the chain. Well as fate would have it, within  2 years of the opening of the Worcester 5 & Diner, Higginbotham had some health problems and needed to cut back, so he made the painful decision to sell. On August 1, 2008, the Watsons bought the Franchise Rights and Trade Name “5 & Diner”.

5 & Diner, Lincoln St., Worcester, Mass. photo by Larry Cultrera

After doing a little research for the previous post in December, I got in touch with the new owner, Bob Watson and introduced myself. We had a couple of conversations during which I mentioned about this blog as well as my book, “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” among other things.

interior of Worcester 5 & Diner, photo by Larry Cultrera

Another thing that came up during one of the conversations was the fact that I was born and raised in Medford and graduated from high school (Medford Voc-Tech) in 1971. Bob told me his wife Laurie also graduated from Medford High in 1971! This surprised me and later that day I went home and checked out the yearbook. Laurie’s maiden name started with a “D” so when I looked, I saw that her graduation photo was 2 spots directly below mine on the same page! What a small world!

5 & Diner, Lincoln St., Worcester, Mass. photo by Larry Cultrera

We arranged to meet March 25, 2012 out in Worcester where the Watsons had reserved one of the “round booths” that are situated in the front corners of the diner. Denise and I met Bob and Laurie and we all enjoyed a great lunch at the 5 & Diner (although I think Laurie actually had a “breakfast entrée”). We talked about diners, and how they got into buying a franchise and of course ultimately the whole chain. They gave me an informational brochure that outlines all the affiliated companies (besides 5 & Diner) that come under their corporate umbrella known as LPM Holding Company. This company employs more than 700 people in 9 states, including Bob & Laurie’s sons, Patrick and Mike.

interior of Worcester 5 & Diner, photo by Larry Cultrera

The Watsons come to this venture (5 & Diner) with a wealth of experience as both of them are listed as co-chairmen and CEO’s of the company with roots that go back to the late 1970’s when they started by purchasing Epicurean Feast, a commercial food service contractor. According to their info, Epicurean Feast is the largest privately held food service firm in New England as well as 35th largest in the country!

interior of Worcester 5 & Diner, photo by Larry Cultrera

Another company that comes under the LPM “umbrella” is  “Sebastians”. Sebastians is a local, family owned business started in 1994 that serves the freshest, finest American and International fare to the Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts communities.  These cafés in Boston and Cambridge serve health conscious menus for breakfast, coffee, and lunch, while providing drop-off corporate catering to businesses, and special event catering to the Commonwealth. The Watsons realized a long-held dream of owning a restaurant in Boston when they purchased this business in 2010. There currently are 6 locations for Sebastians including 100 Summer St.,  157 Seaport Blvd., One Devonshire Place, 126 High St., and 251 Massachusetts Ave. in Boston as well as 7 Cambridge Center in Cambridge.

Laurie and Bob Watson outside the 5 & Diner in Worcester, Mass.
photo by Larry Cultrera

According to the informational brochure I have, other LPM companies include Encore Party Rentals, Seasonal Specialties Food Services, and Currier & Chives Catering. Bob & Laurie also started the LPM Charitable Foundation. This Foundation’s primary focus will be on the prudent investment of available resources in programs in the areas of education, environment, health and human services, community and civic development, and the arts. Additional consideration will be given in certain instances to grants to organizations outside these categories.

To get back to 5 & Diner, when the Watsons first opened their franchise in Worcester, there were 15 units operating. When they had acquired the company from Higginbotham, the number of locations had dropped to 12 (in 5 states) the Watsons had plans to possibly expand the chain right away. Unfortunately, franchise-based financing disappeared with the recession, which effectively delayed those plans. Now, the Watsons think the time is right and have developed a new prototype that includes less square footage than the “free-standing” units they currently have. This new prototype will be what Watson terms “in-line eateries, basically built into existing buildings.

artist’s rendering of the exterior of the 2011 “5 & Diner prototype”
Courtesy of 5 & Diner

Watson states, this in-line model will reduce construction costs from about $1.3 million to $450,000 – $650, 000. The diners will be smaller, 3,000 sq. ft. as opposed to 4,200 sq. ft. with 92 seats instead of 112.

artist’s rendering of the interior of the 2011 “5 & Diner prototype”
Courtesy of 5 & Diner

The Watsons have partnered with Northboro Builders, Inc. to help develop the future franchise locations as well as Cassidy Turley, a leading commercial real estate services provider, who will ensure proper execution of site search and real estate processes. They also have enlisted the Buxton Company, a large retail research firm to help identify strong markets for potential franchisees.

Some of the markets that the Watsons have earmarked for future franchises include New Jersey (where they hope to open 8 locations), Connecticut (5 locations) as well as other locations in Pennsylvania, New York and even Florida.

As mentioned above, 5 & Diner’s are currently operating at 12 locations, 2 are owned outright by the Watsons,  the Worcester diner and the original one located at 5220 N. 16th Street in Phoenix, AZ. All remaining 5 & Diner locations are franchised including the ones in Tempe, Mesa, Scottsdale (and 3 others in Phoenix) Arizona, as well as ones in Orlando, FL, Pleasant Hill, IA and Tulsa, OK. There is also a 5 & Diner Deluxe which I believe is not free-standing in Surpise, AZ.

For more info on LPM Holding Company check out  these links ….
www.lpmhci.com, www.5anddiner.com, www.epicureanfeast.com, www.currierchives.comwww.encorepartyrentals.com , www.sebastians.com, and  www.lpmcharity.org