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, Randy Garbin of Roadside Online http://www.roadsideonline.com/ reported that he got a message from John Kallas 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 just happened to give Randy Garbin a call to ask him what he thought about the possibility that Dave Pritchard from Salisbury might be interested in rescuing the diner. As the phone was ringing I glanced over at the diner and saw a dumpster as well as the left end of the diner already dismantled! Randy answered the phone and I told him what was happening. We both 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!

Notes from the Hotline, 2-11-2012

Goodbye to Miss Albany


The Miss Albany Diner, April 2011 photo by Larry Cultrera

On November 14th, 2009 I posted about the Miss Albany Diner of Albany, NY was for sale and it was  just a little over 15 months ago when I wrote about the passing of old friend Cliff Brown, the owner of the Miss Albany Diner, (see this post…… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/in-memoriam-cliff-brown-owner-of-miss-albany-diner/) .

Last week (Feb. 3rd) on the Miss Albany’s Facebook page it was announced that Cliff’s wife Jane and son Bill had finalized the sale of the diner to the owners Wolff ‘s Biergarten (the business next door to the diner).

Here is what was written on their Facebook page…..
On Wednesday, February 1st, 2012, the Miss Albany Diner was sold to the owners of Wolff ‘s Biergarten. The final day of business as the Miss Albany Diner will be Friday, February 10. The Brown family would like to thank all the employees over the years who have helped make the Miss Albany Diner a success, especially Kim, Gina, Mark and Stephen. They are an integral part of …the Miss Albany whose dedication and hard work made the effort of running the diner so much easier. We are very grateful that they have chosen to stay with us for so long. May they all find great success in whatever they choose to do.
Over the past 23 years we have greatly enjoyed the opportunity of meeting so many people from all walks of life and all around the world. Making so many new friends and acquaintances has been the best part of owning the Miss Albany Diner.

On Thursday, the New York Times did a front page article on this iconic diner’s closing…….

Throwback in Albany Will Serve Last Meal

By John Eligon
ALBANY — The Mad Irish Toast sold out in three hours. Akum Norder was fortunate enough to get the last plate of it on Wednesday: French toast made with Texas-style bread, pecan cream filling and Irish whiskey sauce. After she had finished, she scraped the residue off the dish with her finger and licked it, mourning her farewell to the Miss Albany Diner.

The Miss Albany, a streamlined metal diner fabricated to look like a railroad car, has been a fixture of north Albany since Herbert H. Lehman was governor, but it is closing on Friday.

“It’s an incredible loss,” Ms. Norder, 39, said while staring at the remains of her meal. “There’s nothing like this.”

For the last several days, since the owner unexpectedly announced last week that it was closing, the line for a seat spilled onto the sidewalk, in front of its custard-and-raspberry-colored exterior. The patrons wore suits, jeans, hoodies and work boots. They crammed into the cherry wood booths, careful not to burn their legs on the radiator below, or onto chrome counter stools, admiring the arched ceiling, the porcelain-coated steel walls, the hand-laid floor and wall tiles, and the punchy signs (“The benches are to sit on. The floor is for feet.”).

“Where else can you go back in time like this?” Frank Woods asked, as he waited for a table.

In general, restaurants in downtown Albany cater to lobbyists with big checkbooks or state workers on their lunch breaks, but the Miss Albany Diner is a throwback, a place known as much for its quirks — the waiters used to serve Sunday brunch in tuxedos — as for its creative menu and homey feel. And the restaurant is on the National Register of Historic Places, cited as “a distinctive example of mid-20th-century American roadside architecture.”

“It’s been an anchor in that area for many, many, many years,” said Mayor Gerald D. Jennings of Albany, who has frequented the diner since he was a child.

Miss Albany’s owner, Jane Brown, 77, relishes stories about the early days of the diner, when the first owner, Lil McCauliff, was said to have dragged misbehaving customers out by the collars. But Ms. Brown herself is a character. She has done voice-overs for commercials, acted in independent movies and said she once stopped a fight between patrons with a stern stare and two words: “Sit down.”

Ms. Brown said she and her husband, Clifford, had been trying to sell the diner for several years because they were getting old and wanted to retire. Then, two years ago, Mr. Brown died.

Ms. Brown finally found a buyer in Matthew Baumgartner, a prominent local restaurateur who owns a neighboring beer garden. Mr. Baumgartner said he and his business partners would retain the structure but would probably open a restaurant inside. The diner’s days, it appears, are over.

The lot Miss Albany occupies, about a mile and a half from the Capitol, was the site of a lunch cart that opened in 1929, serving workers in what was a commercial and industrial area. The railroad-car-style diner was erected in 1941 and named Lil’s Diner, after Ms. McCauliff. In the mid-1980s, it was restored for use in “Ironweed,” a film starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep that was based on the novel by William Kennedy; the filmmakers called it the Miss Albany Diner, taking the name from a onetime chain of local diners.

The Browns bought the diner in 1988; Mr. Brown was responsible for much of the food and décor.

A pegboard on one wall lists how far away various cities are, from Troy (8 minutes) to Tokyo (15 hours), because Mr. Brown saw Albany as a central meeting point. And then there are the three rectangular pieces of Styrofoam, each with a slightly different hue, hanging from the ceiling; Mr. Brown wanted patrons to point to one of the three to indicate the degree of doneness they wanted for their French fries.

The Mad Eggs are a version of eggs Benedict, topped with a curry sauce instead of hollandaise, because Mr. Brown had high cholesterol. And Cliff’s Ugly Eggs were born on the day Mr. Brown asked the cook to whip him up eggs with anchovies and mushrooms; when the dish arrived, the man next to him said it looked ugly.

The diner’s relatively remote location inspired the Browns’ son, Bill, a chef, when he created the menu.

“I kind of figured since nobody really knew about the diner at the time, they weren’t coming down here for bacon and eggs,” he said. “So I thought this gave us license to do anything we could think up.”

Bill Brown recalled seeing Stan Lundine, lieutenant governor during the administration of Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, sitting on a stool surrounded by an art student, a janitor, the president of a local company and a truck driver.

“They all sat there trading jokes,” he said. “It didn’t matter who anybody was, as long as you had a good joke to tell. That’s really the spirit of the diner, to sit and share, take a break from life.”
To all of our customers over the years we would like to say that it was a pleasure meeting you and Thank You for your support.
Finally, we wish the new owners every success. May the diner bring them as much joy and laughter as it did our family.

From what I have read, the Brown family will retain the “Miss Albany” name and their trademark recipes. It is rumored that they might have a Miss Albany cookbook planned for the future that will include all their signature dishes. It has also been mentioned that the building will not reopen as a diner but as a possible late night eatery that will serve the many nightspot type businesses in the area. Hopefully the building itself will not be altered as it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Brown’s were always congenial and gracious hosts making regular customers (and occasional customers like me, for instance) always feel welcome. I want to wish a happy retirement to Jane Brown and best wishes to Bill Brown on whatever endeavors he embarks on in the future.

More news on Somerville’s Rosebud Diner


postcard view of Rosebud Diner, photo by Larry Cultrera

The other day Randy Garbin of Roadsideonline posted a link to Livejournal.com blurb on who is negotiating to buy the Rosebud Diner.
http://davis-square.livejournal.com/2834458.html

In the blurb by Ron Newman it stated…..

Tasty Burger to replace Rosebud?

Brandon Wilson from the Somerville Historic Preservation Commission told me that Tasty Burger is negotiating to buy both the Rosebud Diner and the Bar and Grille behind it. They plan to combine the two into a single restaurant.The Historic Preservation folks are involved because Somerville has designated the diner as a single-building historic district. This means the city has to approve alterations to the façade — such as painting out the name Rosebud on the diner, or removing the neon Rosebud sign on top.

If the deal goes through, the city will have to somehow balance its interest in historic preservation against the new business’s right to put its own name on the building.

 
 According to an article written by Leah Mennies posted on 12/7/2011 at bostonmagazine.com…… David DuBois, owner of Tasty Burger, Citizen Public House and The Franklin restaurants, was planning on expanding his Tasty Burger concept to at least two new locations and Davis Square was one of the locations.
 
The Rosebud Diner is not only a single building historic district in the City of Somerville, it is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Multiple Property Submission (MPS) by the Massachusetts Historical Commission. Maybe there will be enough opposition from the historical interests to change Mr. DuBois’s mind in pursuing this.
 
I spoke with Bill Nichols whose family owns the diner and he informed me that he feels that the sale of the diner might not go through. I hope this is the case!

The Story of the The Abandoned Luncheonette, AKA the Rosedale Diner


Daryl Hall & John Oates’ Abandoned Luncheonette,
1973 Atlantic Records Album Cover

Not long after I started the Diner Hotline Weblog, I mentioned that I would write about the “Diner in my Header” (the photo at the top of my blog), see…
https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2007/11/07/diner-in-my-header/.
I know a lot of “Diner People” were familiar with a similar image that dates back to 1973 and was the inspiration for my 1982 photo. So now I am finally going to keep my promise to my faithful readers and tell the story in its complete form, with the help of my friend Matt Simmons!

Back in 1991, I was asked by Randy Garbin of Roadside Magazine (now RoadsideOnline) to contribute a “Diner Hunting” story for the fourth issue of his fledgling publication (Roadside, Summer, 1991). At first I thought, which of the hundreds of diners I had documented up to that point in time would make a compelling enough tale for Randy’s faithful readers? Then it came to me in a New York minute (OK, a Pennsylvania minute) that it had to be the story of how I found the “ABANDONED LUNCHEONETTE” !!! The next part is basically what I wrote for Roadside, with a few new tweaks……


My recreation of the photo from the album cover, 2/26/1982

For those of you readers not familiar with it, Abandoned Luncheonette is the title song of an LP record album by recording artists Daryl Hall & John Oates, released in 1973 on the Atlantic Records label. The album cover featured a photograph of an abandoned diner. This cover had always intrigued me whenever I came across it in music stores. I used to say to myself, “Wow…what a great idea for an album cover.” Every so often, I would even hear the song on the radio, but I never paid much attention to the lyrics.

It wasn’t until November 1980, the same weekend I had taken my first photograph of a diner in Harrisburg, PA, that I actually came closer to finding the Abandoned Luncheonette. I was driving through New York City and had the radio tuned to an FM station. Between tunes, the DJ mentioned how he liked diners, which definitely got my attention, and then he played the Abandoned Luncheonette song. For the first time, I really listened to the lyrics. I couldn’t believe it – what a great tune! The words spoke to me and stirred something within me. I had to have this record. Needless to say, I bought this album – the first of around 15 albums in my collection with images of diners featured on the covers.

A year later while I was again visiting Harrisburg, I was sitting in my friend Steve Repucci’s living room, looking at a map of Pennsylvania and trying to locate a small road in the Philadelphia area. You see, there is a clue to the Abandoned Luncheonette’s location on the inner sleeve that mentions “the man on Route 724.” I knew that Daryl Hall & John Oates both were raised in the Philly area and figured that the diner may be located near there. I couldn’t find Route 724 anywhere on the map. There were just too many small roads with~3 digit designations to see it. But wouldn’t you know, the next morning while driving home on Route 222 through Reading, PA at around 4:30 a.m., I came upon the junction of Route 724. I couldn’t believe it! I pulled over and checked out the map. The road went only a few miles to the west, but went 30 or so miles to the east, towards Philadelphia. I knew this had to be the right road and decided that on my next trip, I would go exploring.

On February 26, 1982, I returned to Pennsylvania with Steve’s brother Scott to help get Steve moved back to Boston. Since we had some time to kill on the trip down, we bypassed through Reading and headed down Route 724. We had traveled about 20 miles or so to the east into the outskirts of Pottstown (actually Kenilworth, PA) when there it was – the Abandoned Luncheonette – sitting about 25 feet off the side of the road. This was really exciting, almost like finding the Holy Grail. It was still recognizable and looked very similar to the album cover, albeit with nine years worth of over-grown foliage. Luckily, it was the middle of winter, and I was able to duplicate the album cover photo without the bushes and trees getting in the way.


Photo of me in front of the diner,  shot by Scott Repucci 2/26/1982


Scott Repucci inside the Abandoned Luncheonette, 2/26/1982


Left – front view of the Abandoned Luncheonette, 2/26/1982

rosedale5
Interior shot of the Abandoned Luncheonette, 2/26/1982


Right –  front view of the Abandoned Luncheonette, 2/26/1982


Left – side view of the Abandoned Luncheonette, 2/26/1982


Another interior shot of the Abandoned Luncheonette, 2/26/1982

I have since found out the diner was formerly the Rosedale Diner, operated for years at the corner of High Street and Rosedale Drive in Pottstown. The diner was probably moved sometime in the early 1970’s to Route 724, but was never put back into service. It was certainly in sad shape when I found it and on a subsequent visit April 3, 1983, it was completely unrecognizable having had all of its stainless steel exterior stripped away. In fact, The Man on Rte. 724 himself (Bill Faulk) asked us to leave the premises.


Front view of diner completely stripped, 4/3/1983

Although it’s a shame this diner met with an untimely death, I feel lucky that I was able to find it with the slimmest of clues and document it prior to it becoming almost completely unrecognizable. Now if I could only get the original Rosedale Diner linen postcard into my collection!


Rosedale Diner postcard from my collection

Well, since I wrote that story in 1991, I was able to obtain a copy of the Rosedale Diner postcard for the collection (thanks Art Goody!). Also, within the last 5 years or so, I have become acquainted with some key people who were able to impart some more facts and info on the Abandoned Luncheonette. One of the facts I had wrong in the earlier story was when I guessed the time period the diner got moved to its final resting place. Not sometime in the early 1970’s as I surmised, but actually in 1965.

One of the people that I have managed to make contact with was Susan Norman of the Pottstown, PA area. She was able to give me some first-hand info on the diner and its history. Susan is good friends with Cindy Faulk Baker. In fact they have known each other most of their lives. Cindy is the daughter of Bill Faulk who was the owner and operator of the Rosedale Diner. In my correspondence with Susan, she was able to fill me in on some of the facts about the diner and also put me in touch with Cindy. In fact, Susan sent a nice little “care” package to me with some photos as well as an old menu cover from the Rosedale Diner, which I greatly appreciated!


Rosedale Diner menu cover courtesy of Susan Norman

Ironically, not too long after I started corresponding with Susan, Brian Butko put me in touch with Matt Simmons, around the time I started this blog in 2007. Matt was himself trying to find info on The Abandoned Luncheonette. Matt is from the Detroit, MI area and is a big fan of  Daryl Hall & John Oates’ early music. He was trying to piece together info on his favorite album cover from H&O and Brian knew that had been a passion of mine for a while. So thus began a trading of info back and forth between Matt and myself.

In the mean time, it was brought to my attention by Susan Norman that Bill Faulk passed away on November 6, 2007, (I wrote about it in the blog) and within the same week a drinking glass with the Rosedale Diner logo silk screened on it went up for auction on ebay. What a coincidence! I immediately bid on it and was determined to get it for the collection. I watched over the auction for the last hour or so of bidding and managed to squeak by in the last 2 minutes for the winning bid!


front of Rosedale Diner drinking glass w/logo


Back of Rosedale Diner drinking glass

Since then, I have continued to post all sorts of “Diner related” posts as well as other roadside topics in the almost 3 intervening years. In the back of my mind, the story of the Abandoned Luncheonette/Rosedale Diner was always lurking. Also, Matt Simmons was making inroads in gaining more info and insights while making friends with Cindy Baker and her sister, Marla LaBelle as well as their friend Susan Norman.

Recently, when I did a post on Abandoned Diners, I renewed my promise to finally do something with the story of the Rosedale. Matt contacted me at this point and said he was making another trip to Pennsylvania and after the trip, would document everything he’d learned and send it to me. Well, the middle of July came and with it an email from Matt with the promised story. I read it over and got back to him to let him know that it was a fantastic piece! I told him he was getting co-authorship of this post. (In fact, his text makes up most of it)! So here is Matt’s part of the post……

It was a summer day in 1973, and Bill Faulk was musing to his 26 year-old daughter, Cindy, about a peculiar recent event. Two young men, or “hippie boys”, as Bill described them, had walked into his restaurant, Toggs, with an unusual request.

“He said they told him that they wanted to enter some contest,” Cindy recalls.

According to Bill, the hippie boys informed him that if they won this contest, they would get to record an album of their music. A photo of the dormant diner across the street, which Bill also owned, would be perfect for the cover.

“I told them they could take a picture of it, but not to go inside,” Bill would tell a newspaper reporter, ten years later. “They went inside, anyway.”

After Bill called the local police, the hippie boys, along with their college-aged female photographer, abruptly scurried from the diner.

Fifty-two summers earlier, long before hippie boys and girls came to prominence, Talmadge William Faulk’s introduction to the world came in Prattville, Alabama. The simplicity of southern farm life was shaken at the age of seven, when his beloved mother, Annie Pearl, passed away. Formal education was forsaken shortly thereafter, stalling short of the fourth grade. Following a laborious youth and adolescence, the twenty-one year old known as “Toggs” to some and “Bill” to most, enlisted in the army at Fort McClellan. While serving in World War II, he earned promotions to the level of Sergeant and often fulfilled cooking duties for his fellow soldiers.

While on furlough in Atlantic City in the autumn of 1944, Bill became acquainted with Nancy Scheeler—a lovely twenty year-old from Pottstown, PA. Their relationship quickly blossomed, driven by a flurry of love letters penned by Bill. Having recently discovered and read the letters, Cindy declares, “My Dad was very, should I say—suave.”

A few months after meeting in Atlantic City, Bill and Nancy were married on Christmas Day of 1944.


Operating location of the Rosedale Diner, photo courtesy of Matt Simmons

Following the Allies’ victory, the newlyweds settled in Nancy’s hometown. Situated forty miles northwest of the Liberty Bell, the borough served as residence for roughly 22,000 others. In August of 1946, Nancy gave birth to Cindy. When Bill’s daughter was three and a half, he took a symbolic step toward fulfilling a longtime dream. Registering as a business owner with the State of Pennsylvania, Bill secured the name “Rosedale Diner” for his new venture. He opened his restaurant at the corner of East High and Rosedale streets. High Street, a.k.a. Route 422 at the time, was the bustling main drag in Pottstown. In addition to the cross-street namesake, the surrounding collection of homes was known as the “Rosedale neighborhood”—the most prestigious in the borough. Manufactured by Fodero Dining Car Company, Bill’s diner sparkled with a stainless steel exterior and red trim. A kaleidoscope of pink and burgundy tiles lined the interior floor and walls, and the forty-three seat restaurant featured a significant luxury: air-conditioning.


Fodero Dining Car Company builder’s tag courtesy of Pat Fodero

The Rosedale operated just a mile and a half down High Street from the Sunnybrook Ballroom, a popular dance hall in which jazz and big band musicians performed. Consequently, the likes of Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington sporadically inhabited the diner’s booths. But no famed swing-master of the time would ultimately wield as great of an impact on the diner’s fortunes as a young boy named Daryl. The youth from nearby Cedarville was often brought to the Rosedale by his parents, Walter and Betty Hohl. Betty was a local music teacher, whose son was among her pupils.


A proud Bill Faulk sitting at the counter at the Rosedale Diner
photo courtesy of Cindy Baker, Marla LaBelle & Susan Norman


unidentified customer & Bill Faulk sitting in a booth at the Rosedale Diner
photo courtesy of Cindy Baker, Marla LaBelle & Susan Norman


Bill with daughter Cindy inside the Rosedale Diner
photo courtesy of Cindy Baker, Marla LaBelle & Susan Norman


Great interior shot of the Rosedale Diner
photo courtesy of Cindy Baker, Marla LaBelle & Susan Norman

Open twenty-four hours, six days a week, operating the Rosedale required a complete family effort. Bill typically labored until at least 9:00 P.M., with Nancy joining him at 4:00 in the afternoon. Cindy spent many evenings of her youth at the diner, and at age twelve, she became part of the daily staff. She performed just about every task required at the Rosedale, until earning her high school diploma. During those six years of six-day work weeks, Cindy’s father never provided her with financial compensation for her efforts.

Of course, the Rosedale Diner did have paid staff, as well.

“Dad hired lots of pretty waitresses,” Cindy recalls.

Among them was Jean Harner, who Cindy believes was eighteen when she accepted a waitress position at the Rosedale. However, when asked if it’s possible, Cindy acknowledges that perhaps Jean actually was twenty when the diner was a baby. Jean would quickly become significant in Bill’s life, and remain so until the end of hers.


Aerial view of Rosedale Diner prior to obtaining an entryway vestibule
from Fodero Diners. (the diner came from the factory sans vestibule, I believe that Fodero designed it to have a vestibule but due to construction and set-up costs, Bill put-off having one initially. I suspect that after the diner was paid-off, Bill went back to Fodero and had one made) – LAC
photo courtesy of Cindy Baker, Marla LaBelle & Susan Norman


circa 1957 photo showing newly installed factory-built entryway vestibule
photo courtesy of Cindy Baker, Marla LaBelle & Susan Norman

From the Rosedale’s opening day, Bill merely leased the land on High Street. He declined opportunities to buy it more than once, balking at the asking price. In 1965, Nagle Motors, the company that held the parcel, found another party that didn’t flinch at the cost of procurement. A new franchise of a fledgling fast-food chain known as McDonald’s moved in. The Rosedale was relegated to being towed out.

As fate would have it, the dislodging of the diner was not the biggest Faulk family event of 1965. In July, three days after Bill’s forty-fourth birthday, he and Nancy welcomed their second daughter, Marla. One month shy of turning eighteen, Cindy was no longer an only child. The challenge of having a bigger family to support was compounded by the newfound uncertainty and upheaval in Bill’s professional life. The proliferation of McDonald’s had been no surprise to him. He had been telling a variety of people for years that fast food was the future of the restaurant business. With his diner now homeless, Bill decided the time to join the future was now.

He purchased land on each side of Route 724 on the southeastern outskirts of Pottstown.  Bill secured several rural acres on the north side, and enough space to open a new restaurant directly across the street on the south side. Bill claimed to have paid $6,000 to have the Rosedale towed from its bustling High Street locale and moved two miles to his new spread. He directed the diner be placed near the north edge of Route 724. And in that spot, the Rosedale sat. Empty, quiet, dark and dusty…  the Rosedale sat. Bill raised cattle on the surrounding acres, as the Rosedale sat. And sat.


Rte. 724 signs, photo courtesy Matt Simmons

Bill had his new fast food restaurant, Toggs, constructed directly across the street. Unlike the High Street location, Bill’s new eatery was isolated from the vibrancy of Pottstown life. It turned out that the most significant structure in its proximity was a private residence—Daryl Hohl’s grandmother’s house.

To enhance his pursuit of a music career by easing pronunciation, Daryl changed his surname to Hall. He met fellow southeast Pennsylvania native John Oates while they were each students at Temple University. Together, they signed with Atlantic records and released their first album in 1972. After “Whole Oats” faded with little radio play, meager sales and lukewarm reviews, the duo began writing songs for what would become the most critically acclaimed album they would ever release. One of the songs, composed by Daryl, was inspired by the diner that had transformed from a sparkling childhood memory to a dormant and downtrodden relic. So, at least one thing Daryl said on that summer day at Toggs in 1973 was true. Bill Faulk’s defunct diner would be perfect for his and John’s album cover.

On November 3rd, 1973, Daryl Hall and John Oates released their second album, entitled “Abandoned Luncheonette”. The front cover featured an exterior photo of the Rosedale, encompassed by the tall grass and shrubs of eight years of inactivity. The back cover featured a photo of the duo that was taken moments before the police arrived at the scene.

The inner album sleeve contained head shots of Hall and Oates against the stainless steel interior of a different diner, indicating that Bill’s call to the police had initially prevented the hippie boys from getting all the snapshots they wanted.

Among the acknowledgements read: “Luncheonettes courtesy of The Man on Rt. 724 and Imperial Shell Homes, Inc. (better known as ‘The Diner Graveyard’)”. Bill was sent a Hall & Oates t-shirt and what was promised to be the first copy of the album off the presses. Daryl and John inscribed the back cover, right over the picture that had been taken against Bill’s wishes.

“’Mr. Man’, your cooperation was wonderful and we love you and your family. – Daryl Hall, John Oates”.


Signed back cover of Abandoned Luncheonette album
photo courtesy of Cindy Baker, Marla LaBelle & Susan Norman

Despite widespread critical acclaim, the LP would not be a commercial success for Hall and Oates for several years. “She’s Gone”, from Side A, initially fizzled as a single, only to hit number #1 on the R & B chart when covered by Tavares. The first song on side B was the title track. Its lyrics painted a somewhat pitiful picture of an antiquated couple, sitting in an empty diner, clinging to the distant days in which their youthful energy had brought the building to life. To anyone who ever knew Bill, it would be obvious that the lyrics were about him. But the song’s other fallen hero was not his wife.

“I have no doubt that the woman in the song is Jean,” Cindy asserts.

After all, by the day Daryl, John, and their photographer walked into Toggs, Bill and Jean had long been a couple. For quite some time, the marriage between Bill and Nancy had merely existed on paper. The husband and wife had moved on, mutually.

After receiving the autographed copy of “Abandoned Luncheonette”, life went on in typical fashion. According to Marla, Bill listened to the album once, and then never again removed it from its sleeve. But in 1976, Bill started to notice something surprising and disturbing. The locks on his diner’s doors had been broken, and items were vanishing from within. Random strangers were stopping by, even in broad daylight, and attempting to go inside the Rosedale. Not coincidentally, Hall and Oates had recently scored their first top ten hit with “Sara Smile”. Atlantic records quickly reissued “She’s Gone”, and it went top ten as well, drawing significant attention to the album from which it had come three years prior.

At first, the corresponding deterioration of the Rosedale was gradual. Then came the 1980’s. Hall and Oates began the decade with separate multi-platinum-selling albums in three successive years. The local hippie boys, who had dropped by Toggs with a peculiar request nearly a decade earlier, were now arguably the second most popular musical act in the world behind Michael Jackson. People came from all over the world, in search of the special spot on Route 724 at Peterman Road. The Rosedale was ravaged.

By January of ’83, township officials had informed Bill that his dilapidated diner was now an eyesore that had to be eradicated. Bill saw little choice but to plan its demolition.  News of the impending doom spread quickly, from papers in Pottstown, Reading and Philadelphia, to the city of brotherly love’s NBC affiliate. Terry Ruggles came to the site on Route 724 with microphone in hand and cameraman in tow. Bill told a story about one man who had chained the door of the Rosedale to the bumper of his car, in an effort to drag away a unique souvenir. The bumper lost the tug of war. Bill listened unsympathetically, as the man lamented his fate.


Bill Faulk, Terry Ruggles and unidentified cameraman in a TV interview
circa 1983 photo courtesy of Susan Norman


Terry Ruggles interviewing Bill on camera
1983 photo courtesy of Susan Norman


Bill Faulk, Terry Ruggles, Cindy Baker & Jean Harner inside Pizza World
1983 photo courtesy of Susan Norman

News of the Rosedale’s numbered days also reached Hall and Oates themselves. Daryl decided that he wanted to rescue the endangered relic, and he prompted Randy Hoffman, a member of his and John’s management team, to negotiate with Bill.

“I’d love to sell it,” Bill told Michael Sangiacomo of the Pottstown Mercury.  “They might as well buy it.”

But they never did. Why the transaction never took place is not entirely clear. Hoffman, through a spokesperson, insisted that he “honestly could not remember”. Nor could John Oates, nor could Betty Hohl. Daryl Hall could not be reached for comment. Rumor has it that Bill demanded a ridiculous amount of money, and Daryl emphatically declined.

“I honestly couldn’t have seen Bill ever being willing to sell the diner, not unless someone offered him a million dollars,” mused longtime Faulk family friend, Sue Norman. Although Bill expressed in print that he would like to sell the Rosedale, Cindy highly doubts that her father meant it.

“My Dad never wanted to sell anything. Once he owned something, it was his.”

Toggs had not survived the 70’s on a rural roadside, and Bill had used his fleeting moment on the TV news to try to promote his newly remodeled restaurant across from the fading Rosedale, known as Pizza World. On March 25th, 1983, Jean was busy at the new establishment when she noticed a large bus pull up next to the Rosedale. Nine men emerged and began to pose for a picture in front of the diner. Jean charged across the street. She angrily insisted that the group leave immediately. One of the men approached her in an effort to calm her down. Jean listened as he said something along the lines of, “Wait, it’s us. You know, the guys who immortalized the place.”

Jean had not recognized him. It was John Oates. Daryl Hall was standing right behind him. The duo were on their way to perform in Philadelphia. Although no longer hippies, the boys had returned. To see the Rosedale one last time.

“That’s when she really flew off the handle,” said John.

Jean wove her central message of “I ougtha sue your asses!” with a tapestry of profanities.

“We laughed and headed on down to Philly,” John recalls.

Shortly thereafter, the Rosedale was gone. Bill received neither compensation nor consolation. Any scrap value merely made a dent in the back taxes he now owed on the massive parcel of land. Once upon a time, Bill had invested years of savings and sweat in a sparkling diner in order to become a successful businessman and provider. That sparkling diner had now been reduced to dirty, scattered debris on land he would soon no longer own.

“Dad had talked about moving back to Alabama and reopening the diner there,” Marla once offered.

“He talked about going back to his watering hole in Alabama,” Cindy said.  She then added that it never seemed a legitimate possibility.

Pizza World suffered the same fate as Toggs, only faster. At age 70, as Bill was gearing up to re-open it for his last hurrah in the restaurant business, he suffered a stroke.  Bill survived, but retired reluctantly.

Two years later, on yet another summer day, Bill was driving on Route 724 with Jean alongside him. They were having a routine conversation—until Jean didn’t answer. She died moments later, from a massive heart attack.

“I think Jean was the love of my Dad’s life,” Cindy once opined.

Bill soldiered on, and three years later, he was elated by the arrival of Marla’s son, Nash.

Bill had long regretted that he had not forged a closer relationship with his first grandson, Shawn, who had arrived slightly more than three years prior to that fateful day the hippie boys dropped by Toggs. Bill’s path to grandfatherly redemption seemed to have fallen off the map when Cindy had moved to North Carolina in 1977. But with the arrival of Nash, “Pop Pop” enthusiastically devoted his time to atoning for past mistakes and making the most of his second chance.

Proving Cindy’s declaration that he could never willingly relinquish ownership, Bill still stopped by a long-dormant Pizza World, into the early years of the new millenium. One day, while tidying up the parking lot, Bill noticed a man across the street, who was obviously struggling to find a particular spot. Bill approached him, and pleasantly asked him if he was looking for the diner.

“I used to own it,” Bill said proudly, launching into a story.

With help from family and friends, Bill continued to live by himself at his longtime home in Pottstown. By the age of eighty-six, his physical state required the constant care of a nursing home. Eleven days after checking in, and thirty four years and three days after “Abandoned Luncheontte” was released, Talmadge W. Faulk passed away on November 6th, 2007. Nancy joined him two months later, each of them leaving behind two daughters, two grandsons, and one—as John Oates described—immortal diner.

It is logical to assume that had Hall and Oates never approached Bill with their peculiar request, the Rosedale would have stood intact until his death. At the very least, the world was deprived of a rather unique estate sale. Instead, the diner crumbled under the weight of a record album cover. An album, that ironically (t-shirt notwithstanding), is the only tangible thing Talmadge W. Faulk ever received for his trouble.

Yet, with more than one million copies of Abandoned Luncheonette sold, along with countless pairs of eyes who have merely seen the cover, Bill’s Rosedale is indisputably one of the most famous diners in history. And that distinction has value—even though the diner owner himself was mystified by the worldwide appeal of two local hippie boys.

Pennsylvania Route 724 spans thirty miles, and passes through more than a dozen municipalities. Only one person in this world will ever be THE man on this considerable stretch of asphalt. And that man was Talmadge W. Faulk. Today, forty-five years after closing forever, Faulk’s diner still has significance, even to people who never once set foot in it. People like me.

On June 12th, 2010, I traveled six hundred miles from my home for what has become an annual visit with recently made, but dearly held friends. Marla’s husband, Mike, stepped several feet into thick woods, rummaging around the large infertile rectangle emblazoned by the Rosedale. While Marla, Nash, and I spotted several tiles from the floor and walls on the outskirts of the woods, Mike emerged with something I had never come across in my previous visits to the site. He extended it to me.  It was a plate, nearly 50% intact. “Would you like this?”  Mike asked.

I wanted to smile, but my jaw had dropped. I hope that somehow, somewhere, The Man on Route 724 was smiling for me.


Partial dinner plate from Rosedale Diner found in the underbrush
photo courtesy of Matt Simmons


Sketch of the Abandoned Luncheonette done by Scott Moyer


Former site on Rte 724 of the Abandoned Luncheonette today.
photo courtesy of Matt Simmons


Bill Faulk’s Pizza World today, another Abandoned restaurant!
photo courtesy of Matt Simmons


L-R, Susan Norman, Cindy Baker, Matt Simmons & Marla LaBelle
2010 photo courtesy of Matt Simmons

Acknowledgments:

I want to thank Matt Simmons for the great job he did writing the major portion of this piece. He did what I would have liked to accomplish myself. But due to time & travel constraints as well as a myriad of other reasons on my end, I was unable to do. I also want to thank Cindy, Marla & Susan for their part in telling this story. Without their assistance, none of this would have come to fruition. Finally, thanks to Daryl Hall & John Oates for inspiring me with that long-ago album cover that intrigued me so much through the 1970’s! – Larry Cultrera

The content of this story was greatly enhanced with information contributed by:

Cindy Baker, Marla LaBelle, Sue Norman, Betty Hohl, John Oates, Tim Hufnagle, Michael SanGiacomo, Nick Tosches and WCAU TV in Philadelphia.

They each have my sincere gratitude.

As does Daryl Hall, for writing the song that has led me on this remarkable journey.

…A journey that may have stalled in my corner of the world, were it not for Larry Cultrera.  Larry, thank you for sharing your Diner Hotline Weblog so that I may share my favorite story.” –  Matt Simmons

Notes from the Hotline, 11-14-09

New York Diner News

This has been posted on numerous sites including RoadsideOnline and Roadside Fans Yahoo Group but I need to get on the bandwagon as well. It was reported this week that two legendary diners from Albany, NY are being put up for sale by their respective long-time owners. There was also news of a “changing of the guard” at an iconic New York City diner this week as well.

Miss Albany Diner

The first of the two Capitol District Diners to be on the block is Cliff and Jane Brown’s Miss Albany Diner. Cliff is right up there in my book (along with Phil Paleologos of New Bedford’s Shawmut Diner) as being one of the most affable and enthusiastic owners I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. The Brown’s have been running the Miss Albany for 20 years interestingly after having retired from previous positions in other careers.

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 Here is the text of a story that appeared in the Albany Times Union on November 12th…

Diner for sale, hold the change

The Miss Albany Diner owners ready to retire, but hope their classic fare remains eternal

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The diner, like the neighborhood, draws all types: Yuppies and factory workers, rich and poor, old-timers and hipsters — all in search of a cup of coffee, a warm meal and… “A friend,” Jane says. “They just need somebody to listen to them.”

The Browns this year are celebrating their 20th year as owners of the Miss Albany. But Cliff is 82 and Jane is 75 — and they’re eager to move on. Their son Bill, the restaurant’s cook, isn’t interested in taking over. The Browns are looking for the right person to take the diner into its next phase. Jane Brown says the business is profitable, though it has hardly made the couple rich.

“I will miss the people,” she says. “I will not miss the work.” The Miss Albany is adjacent to Wolff’s Biergarten, the popular nightspot. And its owner, Matt Baumgartner, is one of the diner’s big fans. “Anytime I have friends visit that’s one of my go-to places,” he said. “And everybody leaves loving it.”

The Miss Albany was built in 1941 and remains authentic to its time — so authentic that it received a preservation award from the Historic Albany Foundation, which noted that diner has never undergone a character-robbing remodeling. It has kept its charm. “It just feels like a good, old-fashioned diner,” Baumgartner said. “They don’t make diner cars like that anymore.”

Chris Churchill can be reached at 454-5442 or cchurchill@timesunion.com. Read his blog at http://blog.timesunion.com/realestate

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Although it is sad to hear that the Brown’s will no longer be a part of this diner experience in the Capitol District in the near future, they certainly are due a well deserved retirement and we wish them all of our best wishes.

Jack’s Diner

The second of the two Capitol District Diners reported this week to be for sale is Jack’s Diner at 547 Central Ave., a well maintained and rare Comac Diner run by Jack Murtagh (who is only the second owner) business is on the market for $175,000, because Jack is retiring after 44 years in the business.

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Empire Diner

Empire-NYC-1

It was also reported this week that NYC’s Empire Diner will be changing operators. Apparently the lease was up for renewal and the long-time operators lost out to owners of a very popular coffee shop from Union Square. This was the text of a small piece from the Gothamist website…..

The iconic Empire Diner in Chelsea is being taken over by the team that operates the obnoxiously fashionable but beautifully staffed Coffee Shop in Union Square. The owner of the property will not be renewing the lease with Renata Gonzalez, who’s operated the classic diner for over three decades. Instead, the Gotham City Restaurant Group will replace Gonzalez with a 15-year lease rumored to be in the $25,000 per month range. Gonzalez says she’s trying to get the new owner to keep some of the current employees, some of whom have been there for as long as her, but that seems unlikely. The name’s changing too, but that hasn’t been revealed yet.

Coffee Shop co-owner Carolyn Benitez tells Chelsea Now the diner will still operate 24/7, but she’s planning on radically reinventing the menu: “It’s a diner in feel, and that’s what appeals to us. It’s not going to have any other identity except being a great old diner with better food.” She’s promising “better ingredients and better quality production,” as well as “that Coffee Shop flavor,” which we interpret as ‘higher prices and hot but aloof servers.’ Oh well, at least we’re not losing it to Alabama.

As I understand it, Renata Gonzalez took over ownership from Jack Doenias who was credited with the transformation of this 1946 Fodero diner into the world’s first upscale diner in 1976. Also, Renata had ties with Thomas Feucht who is the founder of the Sam Kullman’s Diners, a chain in Germany.

It is a little upsetting to hear the new operators are going to change the name of the diner. We hope the other changes alluded to will not destroy this landmark diner.

Sunday morning visit to the Red Arrow Diner in Milford, NH

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Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
photo copyright October 25, 2009 by Larry Cultrera

Well, I’ve been wanting to get back to Milford, NH to see the newest outlet of the Red Arrow Diner. I reported a while back (Sept. 25, 2008 to be exact) that Carol Sheehan of the wildly successful (and popular) Red Arrow Diner of Manchester, NH was going to reopen the former Milford Diner as a second outlet for the Red Arrow. See  this post….. https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2008/09/25/new-hampshires-milford-diner-to-become-2nd-red-arrow-diner/ 

In fact, I was thinking of trying to get to Milford for their annual Pumpkin Festival two weeks ago but the stars were not aligned or something and it did not happen. Then last week Randy Garbin (of RoadsideOnline) and his family made a visit to Milford and as anticipated left there with glowing reviews of the diner. This spurred me to finally get back to one of my favorite New Hampshire towns for breakfast. Saturday was out of the question as it was rainy and gloomy pretty much all day, but Sunday was promising to be a perfect autumnal weekend and probably the last one with any significant folliage to view.

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Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
photo copyright October 25, 2009 by Larry Cultrera

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Kuppy’s Diner of Middletown, PA from my collection.
The Red Arrow Diner in Milford, NH should look more like this.

Denise and I got up to Milford around 7:30 am and the diner was not too busy which was alright with me. Probably a lull as we overheard the day before the diner was jammed a good portion of the day. Denise got a freshly baked coffee cake muffin and I had the eggs, sausage, hashbrowns and toast. We were both very happy with our food and the service was quick and the waitress attentive.

This diner has been a favorite of mine for at least 15 years. I love the setting and always have loved eating here, but now more so as it is a Red Arrow Diner now! I recall driving by it in the 1980’s and wondering if it was a real diner. You see, the place is covered with a regular peaked roof with a gable on the left side and the other end is married into the attached building.

This was done long before I had ever seen it. I was not sure if it was a factory-built diner, so I never logged it or photographed it until the 1990’s. But I actually did go in it one day back in the early to mid 1980’s to have a cup of coffee and more importantly to check it out! I noticed it had what appeared to be a monitor roof with a very narrow clerestory. Being a novice back then I was not as familiar with some of the diner manufacturers as I would later become.

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Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
photo copyright October 25, 2009 by Larry Cultrera

By the time the 1990’s rolled around, my expertise in these matters was fairly rounded out and I realized that this was possibly a rare (for these parts) Ward & Dickinson diner out of Silver Creek, NY. I have since learned from New York diner maven Mike Engle (co-author with Mario Monti of Diners of New York, Stackpole Books) that this may actually be an even more rare Liberty Diner (which has direct lineage to the Ward & Dickinson Co.).

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New red standing seam roof at the Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
(by the way, I got to sit at my favorite stool, the last one on the left),
the last couple of feet of the diner actually hang over the river as the diner was longer than the piece of land. 
photo copyright October 25, 2009 by Larry Cultrera

One thing that is different since the last time I was there, the roof over the diner has been redone with a red standing seam covering. It also has a new sign next to the right hand addition. Most of the other changes they made were just tweaks to what former owner Debbie Flerra had already done to bring the diner back to life after it had been stripped by the last owner (before Debbie and her late partner Gordon Maynard bought it).

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new sign at the Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
photo copyright October 25, 2009 by Larry Cultrera

It looks like as Randy said Carol Sheehan has struck gold again with this 2nd Red Arrow Diner and is now actively seeking people to buy franchises. She hopes to have many more Red Arrows located throughout New England (and probably beyond) before too long! Check out their website at…
http://redarrowdiner.com/home  for more info on the diners and their plans for franchising!

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new sign at the Red Arrow Diner, Milford, NH
photo copyright October 25, 2009 by Larry Cultrera