I just read a very disturbing news article out of Fall River, Mass. Al Mac’s Diner has closed its doors! The article which was written by reporter Will Richmond of The Herald News was posted on their website this afternoon has taken me, and I’m sure a host of other people by complete surprise.
Al Mac’s Diner in Fall River, Mass. May, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera
As the slogan on their sign says….. Al Mac’s Diner was justly famous since 1910, even though the current building dates to the early 1950’s. Al McDermott had been in the business all his life operating lunch wagons and diners too numerous to keep track of. Co-owned since 1989 by Norm Gauthier, his daughter Dawn Xanyn and son-in-law Garet Xanyn this diner was known for its home-cooking.
This is the second diner I featured in my book “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” that has closed within the last week. Buddy’s Diner of Somerville was seized by the Mass. Dept. of Revenue for non-payment of taxes last week and now Al Mac’s has been affected by the slow economy. Here is the text from the newspaper article…..
Al Mac’s Diner closes
By Will Richmond – Herald News Staff Reporter
July 23, 2012
FALL RIVER —
The clock on the facade outside Al Mac’s Diner is stuck at 10:39. Unfortunately for the owners, the century-old restaurant wasn’t frozen in better times. Owner Norm Gauthier confirmed Monday the diner that he has owned for 23 years and has been part of the Fall River landscape since 1910 is closed. No longer will pancakes be available at 6 p.m. or homestyle meals eaten away from home.
Gauthier said the restaurant was done in by the economy. “We’re out of money,” Gauthier said, standing outside the darkened diner. “I’ve put every dime I have into this business and it’s just not successful anymore. The diner era is over. People would rather have flat screens to look at then have a conversation with somebody.” Gauthier said he is hoping to find someone who would be interested in purchasing the diner and breathe some new life into the business. “This would be a great opportunity for somebody interested in a turnkey operation,” he said.
Gauthier said his first 20 years of ownership were successful, but called the last three a “disaster.” In addition to rising fuel and food costs and fewer patrons, Gauthier said other expenses increased in recent years, such as licensing fees. He said costs to meet tightened requirements have also played a role in the diner’s demise. In an effort to offset some of those costs Gauthier, had recently cut back on the diner’s hours of operation. “I feel awful. There is nothing I would like more than to open this place up again,” Gauthier said. His customers would agree. With word of the closure still making the rounds, potential customers looking for lunch Monday said they were shocked by the news.
Leo Marien, of Dighton, said he had just returned from vacation and was hankering for something from the Al Mac’s menu. “Boy, I’ll tell you, this is a landmark,” Marien said. “When you think of Fall River you think of Al Mac’s. This is a surprise.” Marien, who got familiar with Al Mac’s during a 40-year career working in Fall River, said he didn’t have a favorite menu item. Instead he said he often went with one of the daily specials, which he considered to be as good as home cooking. He recalled one time marveling over a slice of cherry cheesecake baked by Gauthier’s wife. After offering to purchase the remaining cheesecake, he said she instead baked him a fresh one. “I would always say coming here was like going home and eating,” Marien said. “I’m going to miss this place. I hope it isn’t going to be closed for long. I wish them all the luck.”
Calling the omelets, the Greek one in particular, his favorite, John Mello had traveled from Somerset for lunch Monday. Instead of getting a meal, he learned about the diner’s fate. “I knew they weren’t doing well, but this is depressing,” Mello said. “To me they had the best breakfast. This sucks.”
Hearing rumors about the diner’s possible demise, Tom Khoury, of Fall River, drove by to check for himself. He wasn’t pleased to see the “Closed” sign hanging in the window, confirming the worst. “It’s iconic and part of our social culture,” Khoury said, recalling an image from a car calendar that displayed the diner lit up in its neon glory. “It’s a shame it’s being closed. I’ve lived in Fall River all my life and to see something like this emotionally affects me.”
Marien offered a similar thought before getting back into his car in search of lunch. “It’s a piece of Americana we’re losing,” Marien lamented.
I will echo what these loyal customers stated…. this really sucks! I hope Gauthier can indeed find a worthy successor who can step back in and get this classic back up and running.