2 Massachusetts Diners closed in the last month

I am eagerly awaiting the publication of my book…. “Classic Diners of Massachusetts”. The official publication date is October 20th, but I probably will see it sooner. It was printed around 2 weeks ago, in fact the same week it was going to press I got news through Facebook that one of the “featured diners” in my chapter on the North Shore & Northern Suburbs had closed abruptly. This was The Little Depot Diner of Peabody.

The Little Depot Diner, Railroad Ave. in Peabody, Mass.
photo by Larry Cultrera

I was bummed out as that piece of news made my book sort of dated before it hit the shelves! Oh well, at least what I wrote will be a tribute to the Miles family. I mentioned  how they were the first people to make this diner viable again after being marginal at best for quite a few years and I know they will be missed. Jim Miles was quoted as saying they hope to find a buyer to take over and reopen the diner in the near future.

Jim Miles wrote the following and posted it on the diner’s Facebook page as an explanation as well as a thank you to all their regular customers……

September 16, 2011
Dear friends and loyal customers,
Yes, it is true…The Little Depot Diner is closed for business. Four years ago Judy and I stepped into this tiny little diner and fifteen minutes later we shook hands with the seller and stepped out as the new owners of this special little place. Until that day we had no plan to ever own a diner. Our kids were as surprised as we were when we told them we bought a diner.

Then the work began and our vision of “The Little Depot Diner” became reality after countless hours of renovation. We wanted to create an atmosphere where people could enjoy a decent meal, have some fun and hopefully walk out happy. We slid the door open in February 2008 in hopes that people will come…and come you did. Over the past few years we have had the time of our lives meeting people, making friends and having fun beyond our wildest dreams. The previous owner told us on that first day; “This diner is not about the food…It’s about the people.” She was absolutely right. Thank you Joyce, for allowing my family an experience we will cherish for a lifetime.

We care about every person that ever came into the diner, but it’s our regular customers that made my decision to close so difficult. You all know who you are. No need to mention names. I want to express my heartfelt thanks for your support and for your friendship. My hat’s off to the parents of the great little kids that brought so much joy to all of us at the diner. We will miss all of you. Many people are asking why we closed so unexpectedly. About six months ago it became apparent to me that this has become more work then we can handle. I began looking for a possible buyer in hopes to find “the right people” to continue the operation without interruption. Unfortunately that has not happened. The well-being of my family is my number one concern and I recognized today as a necessary walk-away point. I apologize for the inconvenience and ask for your understanding and support. Hopefully we will find the “right people” soon and slide that door back open.

God Bless You All,
Jim Miles (The best darn waiter this side of the Mississippi if I do say so myself). To my wife Judy, you’ve done a fantastic job creating such a unique and successful business. I couldn’t have a better partner. To my daughter Jen, your tears today summed it all up. Thank you. To my son Joe, I can never thank you enough for everything you’ve done.
Thank you to our crew and everyone who helped us along the way.
I am a very proud man today.

So, if that news wasn’t enough, this weekend another “featured diner” in my book closed! This time due to a kitchen fire. I am talking about the Whately Diner Fillin’ Station which I featured in my Western Massachusetts chapter.

The Whately Diner Fillin” Station, Whately, Mass.
April, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Apparently, a kitchen fire got out of control and the diner is expected to be closed for an indefinite period while the damage can be repaired.

Here is a news report dated October 2nd from masslive.com about the fire…

Whately Diner fire causes about $100,000 in damages

By Jeanette DeForge, The Republican

A fire that started in the kitchen of the popular Fillin’ Station Diner caused about $100,000 in damages and is expected to keep the restaurant closed for at least a month. The fire started some time between 5:30 and 5:45 a.m. Sunday, when cooks were working in the kitchen and several customers were in the dining room. There were no injures, Whately Fire Chief John Hannum said.

Manager Frederic Brown, who arrived after the fire broke out, said the blaze appeared to have started in the kitchen in an area between two grills. He said it could take several weeks to repair the damage. Hannum confirmed the cause of the fire was a cooking accident. “The extinguishing system activated but it didn’t put the fire out,” Hannum said. The diner has a chemical extinguishing system above the grills. Hannum said he was not exactly sure why it did not douse the flames.

The kitchen was mostly destroyed in the blaze and firefighters had to cut holes in the roof because it had extended above the ceiling. There was no fire damage to the dining room but there was smoke damage, Hannum said.
“When we got there it was going pretty good,” he said. Fire Departments from a number of nearby communities were called under mutual assistance partly because there are no hydrants in the area so tanker trucks were needed. It took firefighters about three hours to put out the fire and ensure it would not start again, Hannum said.

The 24-hour restaurant, also known as the Whately Diner, is on Route 5 next to Exit 24 of I-91. With a gasoline and diesel station next door and large parking area, it is a popular stop for truckers. It is owned by F.L. Roberts.

So hopefully both of these diners will only be closed temporarily and patrons will be able to enjoy some great food in both Peabody and Whately in the near future!