Notes from the Hotline, 9-6-2010

Say Goodbye to the Bel-Aire Diner?

Me about 20 years ago in front of the Bel-Aire Diner
photo by Steve Repucci

As I mentioned in the last post, plans are moving forward with the redevelopment of the Bel-Aire Diner site on U.S. Rte. 1 north in Peabody, Mass. I also said there was conflicting info on whether the diner was going to be kept as part of the new development. A few days ago Beth Lennon sent me a link to a news article about the  new project which had just received some permits for the restaurant that is to be called Red’s Kitchen and Tavern. See….. .  Beth read into the article and thought that the diner might be included in the plans and I expressed my skepticism because of some of the conflicting info I was getting.

I decided to check it out by having breakfast on Saturday morning at Red’s Sandwich Shop in downtown Salem. Being as these people were going to be expanding their business by opening the new location in Peabody, that someone there should be privy to what is going to happen. Sure enough, I asked the person who rang up our check about it and she confirmed that in fact the diner was not going to be included in the new development!

So now I guess it remains to be seen as to what happens to the diner! Best case scenario is the diner gets picked-up, moved and stored somewhere until someone buys it. The worst case scenario is the diner gets torn down. Your guess is a s good as mine. stay tuned!

Rochester, NH’s Remember When Diner to close
and be auctioned

Remember When Diner 2004 photo by Larry Cultrera

Sad news to report from the Granite State, the Remember When Diner located on Rte. 11 in Rochester, NH is closing its doors this month and the plans are to have the place auctioned. I first wrote about this diner back in the hardcopy-print version of Diner Hotline in the Fall 2001 edition of the SCA Journal (Society for Commercial Archeology) In that piece, I had mentioned that the diner (a Starlite diner built in Ormond Beach, FL)opened for business, the day after Thanksgiving of 2001.

A September 4th article written by John Nolan from tells the story about why the diner has to close…

ROCHESTER — The Remember When Diner, owned and operated by Joe and Marlene Blanchette of Farmington, will close its doors on Sept. 19 and go on the auction block on Sept. 27.

A sad Joe Blanchette said that the restaurant, over the past two years had produced enough revenue to pay staff and supplier, but it was insufficient to service the mortgage debt.

After three years running a restaurant in nearby Cardinal Plaza, the Blanchettes opened the Remember When Diner on Nov. 21, 2001. The beautiful, classic diner, which seats 150 people, was manufactured in Ormond Beach, Fla. and by the time the Blanchettes had purchased the restaurant, bought the land where it would sit, had site work done that included bringing in 27,000 cubic yards of fill, and constructing a full basement, they had spent $1.1 million.

In the early years, said Joe Blanchette, they did very well, serving the debt and keeping their supplier paid. In 2007, however, the restaurant went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, due to overextending its credit cards. It was still a very viable business though, and before the end of that year, the Remember When Diner became one of only three businesses in the whole of New Hampshire to emerge from Chapter 11, according to Joe Blanchette.

“We got through it,” he said, adding that 2008 was a good year, financially. “Then 2009 was killer.”

The economic recession had hit, and impacted the eating habits of both the local population and travelers.

“Now, in 2010, we are off in our numbers from 2009,” he added. “It has been a money pit.”

At one point the couple had hoped to negotiate a restructuring of their mortgage with People’s United Bank (formerly Ocean Bank) but this has not transpired, and thus the auction on Sept. 27.

“Hopefully a restaurant group will come in and get this place for a bargain — maybe half a million (dollars). They will have less debt service, and if they are a group with a few restaurants, they will have cash flow,” said Joe Blanchette.

His hope is that the new owners will retain some, if not all, of his staff of 25 people, some of whom have been with him for years.

Gift cards

“I would like to say thank you to everyone for their patronage,” he said, and reminded anyone with a Remember When gift card to come in and redeem it for a meal before Sept. 19. He stopped selling gift cards a few weeks ago in the knowledge that closure was coming, as, he did not want customers to be left holding something that a new owner has no obligation to honor.

People with FIRA cards (from the Favorite Independent Restaurant Association) can redeem them at any time at any of the other 40 member restaurants in the Seacoast area, Joe Blanchette said.

The Blanchettes, both of whom are in their 60s, now plan to sign up for Social Security, with Joe now keeping his eye out for a part-time job.


Among the Remember When Diner patrons are the members of Rochester Veterans Council, and the president of that group, Norman Sanborn Sr., expressed his regret that the Blanchettes are going out of business.

“He (Joe) was one of our great supporters. It is a shame. We held breakfast meetings there and used it for a couple monthly meetings and the Christmas parties for the Riverside Rest Home veterans. Joe and Harvey Bernier would pick up the tab for the Riverside parties,” said Sanborn

He added, “There are not many old-fashioned, real diners in this area. I feel real bad for the girls (waitresses) for a lot of them have been with Joe for a long time. The veterans will miss him.”

When the article stated that Joe Blanchette hopes a “restaurant group” buys the diner at auction, I believe that he is possibly thinking along the lines of The Common Man Restaurants which would make sense to me as they already have 3 diners under their ownership. They are the Tilt’n Diner in Tilton, The Airport Diner in Manchester and the Route 104 Diner in New Hampton. Anyway I’m thinking it might be time for a trip up to Rochester next weekend to have one last meal at the Remember When Diner under Joe Blanchette’s ownership

Sunday roadtrip into Rhode Island

The weather this Labor Day weekend has been unbelievably fantastic! I convinced my reluctant wife (Denise) to go on an excursion down to Rhode Island on Sunday. My goal was to use a gift certificate I had for the A&W Drive-In Restaurant in Smithfield. I also figured that I would take a side-trip over to Cindy’s Diner, located on U.S. Rte. 6 in North Scituate so I could finally document this “built-on-site” diner with photos as the 2 places were only a short distance from each other.

This next part is modified from my original post… I had been aware of Cindy’s Diner for quite some time, mostly through an old postcard (which I do not have in the collection), as well as other peoples photos. Cindy’s sits on the same property as the “America’s Best Value Inn” motel and features a unique rooftop neon sign. Through the years I’d also seen a postcard of a similar diner by the name of the Bo-Peek Diner.  When I first wrote this post back in 2010 I had thought they might be the same diner (although altered) as they both were situated in front of a “U”-shaped motel, in fact the Bo-Peek had a very similar rooftop sign to Cindy’s. It was not until December 29, 2015 that I was informed through an email from Jessica (a waitress at Cindy’s Diner) that the Bo-Peek was down the street in front of a different motel (the Skyview Motor Inn). Apparently, I had never traveled this stretch of Rte. 6 between the towns of Johnston and Foster, RI so I never saw either place (the Bo-Peek is gone).

Cindy’s Diner, photo by Larry Cultrera

Cindy’s Diner, photo by Larry Cultrera

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 10.46.41 AM
Cindy’s Diner postcard


Bo-Peek Diner postcard.

As I stated above, the similarity of the locations as well as the signage led me to believe they were the same place but heavily altered. Be that as it may, I cannot visit the Bo-Peek but I do want to make a trip back sometime for breakfast at Cindy’s. It looks like a great place!

So after taking the photos of Cindy’s, we headed over to Smithfield and I got A&W’s “3 Hot Weiner” special and Denise got the Chicken strip meal. The special included a large Root Beer so I had to fore-go the usually requisite coffee milk one gets with Hot Weiners!

A&W sign with the 3 Hot Weiners Special!

We headed north from Smithfield through North Smithfield on roads I may have never traveled before, eventually bringing us into familiar territory, coming out onto Rte 146A near Slatersville. This brought us back into Massachusetts heading into Uxbridge. We headed east on Rte. 16 from downtown Uxbridge and made a quick stop in Mendon to take some new summertime photos of the Miss Mendon Diner. I had actually documented this diner last Labor Day weekend when it was being set-up on the new site. So I felt it was only poetic justice to take the new shots of it operating (in good weather as opposed to the last shots in winter) a year later!

Miss Mendon Diner, photo by Larry Cultrera

Miss Mendon Diner, photo by Larry Cultrera