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, it was reported that  John Kallas was quoted as 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 glanced over at it and saw a dumpster as well as the left end of the diner already dismantled! I 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!

New storage spot for Bel-Aire Diner

As I posted a few days ago, the Bel-Aire Diner (Peabody, Mass.) was relocated to the back right corner of the property where it operated since the early 1950’s. Owner John Kallas had been quoted as saying if they did not sell the diner in a reasonable period of time, he would move it to the back of the lot and possibly shrink-wrap it. Well, as construction progresses on the new building, it was determined that the diner was now in the way so now it sits in a small, fenced-in corner with its detached entryway standing a few feet away. Here are some photos I shot Friday afternoon after work…..


Bel-Aire Diner in storage, photo March 25, 2011 by Larry Cultrera
note the entryway to the left.


Entryway to Bel-Aire Diner in storage, photo March 25, 2011
by Larry Cultrera


Bel-Aire Diner in storage, photo March 25, 2011 by Larry Cultrera

So, if anyone is still interested, the Kallas family is looking to sell the diner for $50,000. You might be able to contact them thru….
http://www.peabodytruckstop.com/

Notes from the Hotline, 3/15/2011

Diner 317 closes after a short run


Diner 317, Rte 125 in Plaistow, NH. Nov., 2010 photo by Larry Cultrera

 Bob Higgins has been keeping tabs on Diner 317 in Plaistow, NH and has been updating me periodically, he had mentioned to me previously that he thought the diner was struggling for business. I wrote about this diner back in Novemeber, see…… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/notes-from-the-hotline-11212010/ . Well Bob wrote me an email over the weekend to tell me that it is indeed true that the diner is now closed. Here is what Bob said in his email from Saturday…. Was in Plaistow this morning, the diner is vacant and for rent or lease. There is a sign by the road and also in the window for rent and a telephone number. I think it has been gone for maybe a month or so.

I feel badly that the operators, John Woods, his cousin Chris Woods and Justin Behling could not pull this off. I believe there were mitigating circumstances that may have led to the closing such as an on-going road construction project on Rte. 125 near the diner as well as this recession.

Progress at the former site of the Bel-Aire Diner

I have been watching the progress on the redevelopement of the former Bel-Aire Diner site in Peabody, Mass. Things were going fairly slow due to the heavy snowfall we had gotten over January and February. But in recent weeks, things have really started happening. The construction of the new building which is slated to house a few truck-stop related businesses has been moving right along with the raising of the steel framework taking place in just about 3 weeks. Here are some photos from last week showing the diner still on-site and the building rising behind it….


Bel-Aire Diner with new building, photo March 6, 2011 by Larry Cultrera


Bel-Aire Diner with new building, photo March 6, 2011 by Larry Cultrera


Bel-Aire Diner with new building, photo March 6, 2011 by Larry Cultrera


Bel-Aire Diner with new building, photo March 6, 2011 by Larry Cultrera

I have a feeling the diner is not going to get sold right away and it cannot stay where it is for too much longer. John Kallas has said that if no one buys the diner he will have it shrink wrapped and moved to storage behind the new building.

More Bel-Aire Diner info from Salem News

Well, It looks like the Bel-Aire Diner is definitely “For Sale” which is not a surprise. The Kallas family who have owned the diner since it was brand-new have actually dropped the price from the astronomical $199, 000.00 they had been asking for it to a more reasonable $50,000.00.

It still may not be worth that much due to the fact that whoever buys it would have to replace the formica ceiling because of water damage from a leaking roof. That alone will cost a pretty penny if it is done correctly. Gary Thomas said in a recent conversation maybe if they gave it to someone who would pay for the price of moving it, that might be worth it and I would tend to agree.


Bel-Aire Diner this past Saturday morning

The photos in this post were shot on Saturday morning and later that day, I got an email from Bob Higgins who told me by late morning the diner had “For Sale” signs posted on it which happened not too long after I was there.

A lot of other people grabbed onto this article earlier today and have posted it to their websites and message boards, etc. So I might as well pass it along if some of my readers have yet to see this. Anyway, here is an article from todays Salem News written by staff writer Matthew K. Roy that has more info as to what might or might not happen…….

Peabody’s Bel-Aire diner up for sale

PEABODY — Fear not, diner lovers, the Bel-Aire will not end up on the scrap heap.

But it could find its way to northern New Hampshire, owner John Kallas said yesterday. One of three interested buyers would relocate the diner to Pittsburg, or “Snowmobile country,” as Kallas called it.

The Bel-Aire was recently moved to the front of the Route 1 north property where it served customers for 55 years before closing in 2006. It is being replaced by a commercial strip mall that will include Red’s Kitchen and Tavern, a new incarnation of the famous Red’s Sandwich Shop in downtown Salem.

Kallas has it on the market for $50,000. That price purchases a kitchen “75 to 80 percent” intact, according to Kallas, and all of the Bel-Aire’s dishes and silverware.

“It has sentimental value, definitely,” Kallas said.

Kallas’ father, Peter, opened the Bel-Aire after serving in World War II, with help from brothers Bill and Jim. Kallas began working there at 6, standing on milk crates to wash dishes.

If a sale can’t be completed, Kallas said, he will not destroy the diner. He will “shrink wrap it” and store it at the back of his Route 1 property until a sale or use can be realized.

“We’re trying to find somebody to take it,” Kallas said. “It just needs a little tender love and care.”


A view of the cellar floor of the former Bel-Aire Diner this past Saturday,
Come in We’re OPEN” indeed!