Shawmut Diner closes, starting a new life and redifined purpose

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New Bedford, Massachusetts’ Shawmut Diner on next-to-last day of operation
March 30, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera

On a rainy, gloomy Sunday morning, Denise and I visited the Shawmut Diner for the last time at its first and only operating location! We had a late breakfast at around 11:00 am (we usually eat closer to 7:00 am) in the extremely crowded diner. Phil & Celeste Paleologos, the owners and caretakers of this well preserved late model (1954) Jerry O’Mahony diner since February of 1981 had decided to retire. A deal was made to sell the valuable property located at the busy corner of Shawmut Avenue and Hathaway Road to convenience store chain Cumberland Farms. The Paleologos’ knowing the nostalgic value of the diner building were hoping to find a local buyer who would move the diner to a new location but these likely buyers never materialized. So at the time of the closing Phil was resigned to move the diner off the property and into storage on his dime.

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The Shawmut Diner serving a packed crowd on the last Sunday in operation
March 30, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera

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The Shawmut Diner serving a packed crowd on the last Sunday in operation
March 30, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Saying goodbye to Phil & Celeste Paleologos, among the most congenial hosts
I have ever had the pleasure to know! March 30, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera

After we had an excellent last breakfast (I had to sample some of Denise’s wonderful Shawmut Diner Cheese Roll) as well as an emotional farewell to Phil, Celeste and the diner, we drove back home and I immediately downloaded my photos to the computer. I posted 2 or 3 on my Facebook page. I had made plans to start this post but decided to hold off. I had heard from Marybeth Shanahan who inquired about the diner. Marybeth is the owner of the Dream Diner in Tyngsboro, Mass. The Dream Diner is a stick-built (on-site) diner that does a tremendous business hard by the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border. Marybeth’s “dream” has always been to somehow obtain a classic diner and asked me if I thought the Shawmut would fit in front of her building. I told her that it probably would but she would have to sacrifice some parking to do it. So the next day I got Phil and Marybeth together to talk it over. After Phil made some inquiries about the cost of moving the diner it was decided that the cost to move it from New Bedford on the South Coast to Tyngsboro in the Northern Suburbs was probably cost prohibitive for Marybeth.

So now Phil & Celeste had to come to a final decision as to the final solution to where the diner would ultimately go, as it needed to be moved ASAP. Well this past Tuesday (2 days ago), I got an urgent message to call Phil. He told me that they had come to a decision and the family decided to donate the diner to the nearby Bristol County House of Correction. The prison is located about six miles from the diner’s location, making the move relatively short, but albeit still a very costly one. Phil made the official announcement the next day on his radio show (WBSM-AM, Mid-Day magazine show).

Phil also sent this email to me and Richard Gutman as a courtesy announcement…

Hi Larry and Dick: As nationally revered diner experts, I wanted to personally share some good news with you and all our diner friends. Celeste and I, along with our children, have decided to donate the Shawmut Diner to the Bristol County House of Correction on Faunce Corner Rd. in Dartmouth, Mass. In what is an unconventional move, to say the least, is also the direction we decided for our diner as she enters a new chapter of serving people. We’ve always thanked God for the blessings the Shawmut Diner gave us as a family, and to the community, as well. More than just a local eatery, the diner has taken on a spirit of community building and goodwill. That’s the reasoning behind our donation. In essence, we are hopeful the diner will give inmates a new beginning that they can take with them as they transition back into the community from incarceration. The diner will be lifted off its foundation on Friday, May 2, however, it will be transported to its new home on Tuesday, May 6 at 9 am.

 As always, Celeste, Andrea, Athena, Alex, our 7 grandchildren and I send our warmest regards!

It has yet to be determined if the diner will be open to the public when at the new location but it is seriously being considered by the Bristol County Sherriff, Thomas Hodgson. If it does, I will certainly check it out!
The following is a link to A South Coast Today article…
http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140501/NEWS/405010383

The following are images from my collection…

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a painting by my friend Becky Haletky, highly reminiscent of my last visit in March!

 

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a photo of mine that appeared in my book, Classic Diners of Massachusetts

 

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Perhaps my favorite of all my photos of this diner over the years…

I will say this again, I will miss going to this diner when in the neighborhood as well as seeing my friends, Phil & Celeste. I want to wish Phil and Celeste a happy retirement, I know we will stay in touch!

The last Sunday at the Shawmut Diner

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The Shawmut Diner of New Bedford, Mass.
March 30, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera

Well, it was a bitter-sweet trip down to New Bedford, Massachusetts on a rainy Sunday morning at the end of March! Part of our mission was to have a late (for us) breakfast at the incomparable Shawmut Diner. But the most important reason for the trip was to be witness to the last Sunday open for this diner. Phil & Celeste Paleologos have owned the diner since February of 1981 and made the diner not only a local landmark known for good food and and tons of hospitality, but it was also a must-visit destination for any diner lover who was anywhere near the South Coast area of the Bay State! Phil & Celeste have decided to hang up the spatulas and aprons and retire from the business.

They received an offer for the property (which they accepted) to be used for another type of business but they did not want to see the diner get destroyed. After all it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is a superb example of a late model Jerry O’Mahony diner. Phil did attempt to find someone to buy the building but time has run out, so he is paying to have the diner moved into storage locally until a suitable buyer comes forward. Phil says he has received offers from out-of-state buyers and so far has rejected those. Ideally, he wants to see the diner stay in the immediate vicinity and not be moved out of state. The diner’s last official day of business is tomorrow, March 31st.

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Interior view of the Shawmut Diner, the place was really hopping!
March 30, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera

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Interior view of the Shawmut Diner, the place was really hopping!
March 30, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera

I know Phil will stay busy with his afternoon radio show on WBSM and Celeste will be busy with their grandchildren! I am certainly conflicted as this diner holds a special place in my heart as well as my life, primarily due to the friendship I have with the Paleologos’! But I know we will remain friends and be in contact for many years to come and I wish them well for the future! Good luck Phil & Celeste until we meet again!

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Phil & Celeste Paleologos… the  extremely congenial hosts at Shawmut Diner!
March 30, 2014 photo by Larry Cultrera

Notes from the Hotline, November 30, 2011

Updates on Author Events for Classic Diners of Massachusetts


Left to right, Rick Cultrera, Phil Paleologos, Larry Cultrera & Mimi Powell
at Baker Books in North Dartmouth. Photo by Denise Cultrera

The Author Event held this past Saturday at Baker Books went really well. Before we got to the Event, we visited with our good friend Phil Paleologos of the Shawmut Diner. Denise and I split a famous Shawmut Diner “Cheese Roll” which I had been anxious to try since I mentioned it among the menu items in the book. It was everything I thought it would be, I am addicted to it! Actually it tasted like a grilled cheese sandwich which could never be bad! Phil had a couple of copies of the book on hand and he announced to the whole diner (which was packed with customers) that a “famous author” was there, and held up the books! Those 2 copies were immediately bought up and I autographed them on the spot.

Well after having our mid-morning snack, we drove over to the nearby Baker Books store on U.S. Route 6 in North Dartmouth where I gave an impromptu talk and signed some books. We saw old friend Bethany Smith and met some new ones as well. Special thanks to Mimi Powell, the store manager who was very gracious. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend checking this great independent book store out!

Next Author Event to be held at Booklovers’ Gourmet

The next Event will be this coming Saturday, December 2, 2011 at 11:00 am to 1:00 pm. Located at Booklovers’ Gourmet, 55 East Main Street (Route 12) in Webster, Mass. Here is a link to the stores event page… http://www.er3.com/book/events.html

Hopefully some of my Central Massachusetts readers can make it over to Webster!

List of places selling Classic Diners of Massachusetts

I have a preliminary list of places selling the book….

Baker Books – North Dartmouth, MA

Blanchard’s 101 Diner – Worcester, MA

Boulevard Diner – Worcester, MA

Charlie’s Diner – Spencer, MA

Deluxe Town Diner – Watertown, MA

Deluxe Station Diner – Newton Center,  MA

Don’s Diner – Plainville, MA

Front Street Book Shop – Scituate Harbor, MA

Johnson & Wales University Culinary Arts Museum – Providence, RI

Lynn Museum – Lynn, MA

Miss Adams Diner – Adams, MA

Owl Diner – Lowell, MA

Porter Square Books – Cambridge, MA

River’s Edge Card and Gift – Ipswich, MA

Salem Diner – Salem, MA

Shawmut Diner – New Bedford, MA

Tatnuck Bookseller – Westborough, MA

Tex Barry’s Coney Island Diner – Attleboro, MA

Toad Hall Bookstore – Rockport, MA

Zak’s – Manchester By The Sea,  MA

Of course the book is available through all Barnes & Noble stores as well as barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com

New blog by my friend Michael G. Stewart

I am happy to announce there is a new blog called Neon Dreamscapes, A Photographic Diary of Michael G. Stewart. Subtitled “Opening The Door To Visual Experience”. It features a varied and interesting subject matter from Michael’s own musings to some of the projects he is currently working on. I higly recommend it!  Here is the link, I will also put it into my blog roll ! http://neondreamscapes.wordpress.com/

SRO in Somerville, next up… North Dartmouth!

The Author Event at the Somerville Public Library was a success! It became a standing room only crowd! There were more than quite a few books sold.


Some of my family showed up in Somerville, left to right, my brother Don and his wife  Jane, my brother Steve, me and my brother Rick.
photo by Denise Cultrera

This was billed as the first “Meet, Mingle and Read” event at the Library and Library Director Maria Carpenter was very gracious and pleasant to work with. My new slide presentation was well received and there were quite a few members of the audience that participated in the question and answer part after the presentation. The library had some catered “diner-like” food for people to partake of (it was from the local “Sound Bites” restaurant, none of the 3 diners in Somerville could accomodate the request for food).

Some members of my family showed up for this including my brothers Steve, Rick and Don and Don’s wife Jane, as well as Denise’s cousin Maryann Bancroft and her husband Rick. Another old friend, Vinny Bordonaro stopped by as well as a former co-worker of mine Ed Lecaroz and his friend Beth. Old friend and owner of the Rosebud Diner, Bill Nichols was there along with David Hebb, one of my long-time diner roadtrip buddies as well as newer friends Glenn Wells and Mike Engle. Glenn and Mike get the long distance award for driving all the way from the Albany, NY area to attend! Many thanks to my wife Denise for all her help including the photos she shot. I think she is getting pretty good with the Nikon Cool Pix camera.


left to right, David Hebb, Mike Engle, Glenn Wells and myself.
photo by Denise Cultrera

This coming Saturday at 11:00 am, it is on to Baker Books in North Dartmouth, Mass. as well as a radio interview with New Bedford’s Shawmut Diner owner and local radio personality Phil Paleologos at 10:15 am on Tuesday, November 22 (WBSM-AM). Here is a link to the event page at Baker Books….
http://www.bakerbooks.net/events.asp

Diner roadtrip, Memorial Day, 2011

I decided I needed to get to southeastern Massachusetts over the long weekend for some new photos. These would be for my “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” book. I am attempting to use entirely all-new photos for all the diners I am “featuring” in the book, mainly so I can show these diners as they are today. The diners I was interested in photographing were Betsy’s Diner in Falmouth, the Shawmut Diner in New Bedford and Al Mac’s Diner in Fall River. I was also hoping to squeeze in Don’s Diner in Plainville if we had time.

So Denise and I headed out on Saturday morning and stopped for a quick bite and a cup of coffee at Marylou’s Coffee Shop in West Quincy, right off the Expressway. After Marylou’s, we pointed the vehicle toward State Route 28 and followed it all the way into Wareham. We passed Dave’s Diner, a Star Lite Diner in Middleboro and the “closed” Sisson’s Diner, a “converted trolley car” in South Middleboro as well as the Mill Pond Diner, a 1950’s O’Mahony in Wareham along this route. I am happy to report that Dave’s and the Mill Pond were doing a great business. After crossing over the Cape Cod Canal we also passed by the Patriot Diner in Pocasset which also seemed to be doing a great business.

The weather was funny this particular morning as it was warm and sunny away from the coast but we were going in and out of Fog as we were mostly by the ocean. That is why the diner photos (with the exception of Don’s Diner) are a little on the cloudy side. Oh well, what can you do!

We got down to Betsy’s Diner shortly after 9:00 am and the diner seemed to be hopping. Denise overheard someone say they had gotten the best crowd they have seen all spring that morning (it has been a really unseasonably cold one). We got something else to eat and I briefly talked with Karen Chandler, who along with her husband Dave, have been operating the diner since they bought it from Larry Holmes in 1994.


Betsy’s Diner, Falmouth, Mass. May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Betsy’s Diner interior. May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Betsy’s is a beautifully maintained 1950’s Mountain View Diner that originally operated in Kuhnsville, PA under names such as the Peter Pan Diner and Michael’s Family Restaurant before being relocated here in the early 1990’s. I obtained a take-out menu for some info for the book as well as the photos and we were on our way again, heading toward the Shawmut.

The Shawmut was fairly busy as it was between breakfast and lunch. I had given owner Phil Paleologos a call when we were traveling from Falmouth to New Bedford and he promised to meet us within a half hour. This was when I found out that my buddy Phil’s concept of 25 minutes was actually closer to an hour. So while we were waiting, I got some new photos of the outside and inside of this great 1954 O’Mahony diner.


Shawmut Diner, New Bedford, Mass. May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Shawmut Diner interior, May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

In fact, we were ready to leave when he finally showed up. We did have a nice few minutes talking with him. I got at least 3 bear-hugs from him (he never shakes hands as far as I can tell). Phil is the friendliest diner owner I know!

After saying goodbye to Phil, we continued west into Fall River for our next diner destination….. Al Mac’s Diner. We got there and it was still foggy but I got some decent photos. We met Garet Xanyn who co-owns the diner along with his father-in-law, Norman Gauthier. I asked for a take-out menu so I could refer to some of the diners offerings in the book. But unfortunately, they were out of them. Garet promised me that he would email me a copy.


Al Mac’s Diner, “Justly Famous Since 1910″, Fall River, Mass.
May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Al Mac’s Diner interior, May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

I started heading home when Denise asked me about the possibility of checking out Don’s Diner in Plainville. She wanted to know if there was enough time to get there and then back home around the time we needed to be in Saugus. I said we could probably fit it in, so we detoured down I-495 over to Wrentham, which is just north of Plainville. We got to Don’s right after they closed, but the door was still open, so we went in. I was hoping to meet Perry Perreault who is the current operator for the business that was started by his grandfather in 1936. Unfortunately, he had just left! I explained to the waitress who was still on duty that I needed a couple of interior photos for the book. She said she could not give me permission, so I asked her to call Perry, whom I had been in contact with a day or two before to get permission. She did call him and he told her it was OK. So I got my shots and went home.


Don’s Diner, Plainville, Mass. May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


Don’s Diner interior, May 28, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

After Don’s, we scooted home and went about our usual Saturday afternoon routine at home and I was able to get some more writing in for the book. The next day we had breakfast at the Four Sister’s Owl Diner on our way up to Hudson, NH for an errand. After that I got some more writing in and around noon time we went and dropped something off at the place I am employed in Danvers. We then jumped over to nearby Beverly for another errand which was conveniently located near the newly opened stand called The Scotty Dog, a place that features a true “Chicago Hot Dog”. This is located on the corner of Rantoul Street and Elliot Street (Rte. 1A & Rte. 62) where Ron Dogs had operated for a short time.

I met Steve Scott who runs the business with his son Matt along with a few other employees. I was excited to see that they were doing a decent business as they had their Grand Opening two days before. I was not hungry so I grabbed a couple of photos and promised to be back.


The Scotty Dog, Beverly, Mass. May 29, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera


The Scotty Dog, Beverly, Mass. May 29, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

Well, I did get back there on Tuesday after work. I got a Chicago Dog (a Vienna Beef Dog) with all the fixin’s, a kosher pickle spear, 2 slices of tomato, diced onions, 2 sport peppers and neon relish with a dash of celery salt (I did not get the yellow mustard, I don’t like mustard) on a steamed poppy seed bun and an order of French Fries. The photo below is the very first time I have ever photographed a meal I was about to eat! I felt really weird doing that, let me tell you. But I figured, I see “Food Bloggers” doing it all the time so here you go.


An order of French Fries with a Chicago Hot Dog at The Scotty Dog
May 31, 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

I wish the crew at The Scotty Dog good luck and hope to get up there for semi-regular meals.

I also heard from Bob Higgins over the weekend and he sent reports and photos of the former Diner 317 in Plaistow, NH. They had only been open a short time, from the opening in November, 2010 to the closing in March of this year. Now it looks like this beleagured diner is reopening as Betty’s Diner fairly soon. Bob said the stools had been removed (hope they put real ones back in, not movable ones) and they painted the exterior a bright pink (which actually does not look bad). I guess we will have to check this out in the near future and see what happens.


Betty’s Diner, Plaistow, NH. Photo courtesy of Bob Higgins


Betty’s Diner sign, Plaistow, NH. Photo courtesy of Bob Higgins
as you can see the project for the new sewer pipes being installed along Rte. 125 seems to be moving along.


Betty’s Diner, Plaistow, NH. Photo courtesy of Bob Higgins

Thanks to Bob Higgins for sending along these photos.

Diner Hotline marking 30 Years of documenting Diners!

I always consider the weekend of Thanksgiving, specifically the Saturday after the Holiday, the anniversary of when I tentatively shot my first 35mm photo of a Diner. The actual date is November 29th (this coming Monday) but who’s counting? Me of course! It seems almost unbelievable that 30 years has gone by since that gray Saturday in Harrisburg, PA. I was with my brother Rick and old friend Scott Drown and we were visiting Steve Repucci whom we had helped moved to H’Burg the previous Labor Day Weekend.

The three of us had driven down from Massachusetts the day before and as I recall, our route down took us out I-90 to I-86 (a few years later I-86 was to be absorbed by I-84 in MA & CT), then I-84 all the way out to Scranton, PA, where we headed south on I-81.

I also recall the highway was shrouded in the thickest fog I have ever driven through, between Scranton and Harrisburg! I am glad it was the middle of the day, still it was one of the scariest rides I have ever been on!

Anyway, I do not recall what we did that Friday after we got down to Harrisburg but I know the next morning we drove down the street from where Steve and his room-mate Ed Womer were residing to the Bypass Diner on Herr Street (Rte. 22 bypass) in Harrisburg for breakfast. After the meal we went outside and I took out the old 35mm Mamiya camera and shot a photo from the left front of the diner.


Bypass Diner, Harrisburg, PA – Nov. 29, 1980 photo by Larry Cultrera
The diner has been operating for many years as the American Dream Diner

That is my 1979 blue Chevy Van in the parking lot. I drove that 271,000 miles between April of 1979 and December of 1988 and needless to say, a huge portion of that mileage (and time) was spent hunting Diners!

Since that day I have shot probably into the thousands of photos of diners throughout the northeast states as far down as Virginia and Tennessee, (skipped the Carolinas) and been able to document at least one in Georgia (Marietta Diner, Marietta) and then down to Florida to shoot a few more. I’ve also documented diners as far west as Ohio, Michigan and Illinois. According to my database diner log I have documented 815 diners with negative, slide and digital photography.

I have met some interesting people in the last 30 years including Richard & Kellie Gutman, John Baeder, David Hebb, Brian Butko, Randy Garbin, Glenn Wells, Mike Engle and Beth Lennon. I also want to acknowledge Diner owners who have become close friends…. Bob Fennell of the Capitol Diner,  Lynn, Mass. and Bill Nichols of the Rosebud Diner, Somerville, Mass. and Phil Paleologos of the Shawmut Diner, New Bedford, Mass.

I cannot forget to include the late Warren Jones, former owner of the Apple Tree Diner of Deham, Mass. as well as the late Owen Abdalian, former owner of the Main Street Diner of Woburn, Mass. who each passed away way too early and hold a special place in my memories.

Most of all I also want to acknowledge my wonderful wife Denise, who puts up with me, the collection of memorabilia and the obsession! Hopefully, I will continue this quest and be able to document more diners, although the long road trips have dwindled to a very few as years have gone by, and I will continue my efforts of passing along info to you my faithful readers with this blog, Diner Hotline!

Disclaimer: to be clear, this is not the 30th anniversary of the creation of Diner Hotline, just the 30th anniversary of shooting my first Diner photograph, the beginning of my efforts to document the American Diner, which of course spawned the creation of Diner Hotline in 1988 – LAC