The former Fish Tale Diner of Salisbury, Mass. suffers fire damage

The restaurant currently known as The Deck, located at the Bridge Marina on Rings Island, hard by the bank of the Merrimack River in Salisbury, Massachusetts suffered a fire on August 22, 2015. Within sight of U.S. Rte. 1 where it crosses the river between Newburyport and Salisbury, the restaurant, formerly known as the Fish Tale Diner (until 2012) experienced heat, water and smoke damage from the fire that appears to have started outside the attached kitchen annex. At the time of this writing the fire was still of an undetermined origin.

Here is the text from an article written by Alexandra Koktsidis for the Boston Globe on August 22, 2016…

Salisbury restaurant damaged in fire
No injuries in early two-alarm blaze
By Alexandra Koktsidis

GLOBE CORRESPONDENT

Conrad Audette, who co-owns The Deck with his father, woke up abruptly at 7 a.m. Saturday when his fiancée ex­claimed that the restaurant was on fire. “I leapt out of bed and ran outside to see smoke down the street,” Audette, who lives near the family’s restaurant in Salisbury, said in an e-mail Saturday. An employee who had spot­ted the fire from the Newburyport Turnpike bridge went im­mediately to Audette’s home to tell him.

A two-alarm fire severely damaged the kitchen of The Deck, a popular and recently renovated seasonal waterfront restaurant in Salisbury, offi­cials said. Located at 179 Bridge Road, The Deck features out­door seating and picturesque views overlooking the Merri­mack River. Reports of the fire were called in at 7:11 a.m., said Deputy Fire Chief Robert Cook, who said no injuries were reported. The fire had been extin­guished by 9 a.m., but fire- • fighters and investigators re­mained on scene into the af­ternoon, he said. “The restaurant opens at 11 a.m., so this was before em­ployees arrive,” Audette said.

“The inspectors still don’t know the cause, but it appar­ently began outside.”Audette said the kitchen and inside seating area of the restaurant were badly dam­aged, but the two decks were intact. The restaurant had made renovations over the past winter, adding a prep room and second deck to dou­ble its capacity. It reopened May 15. “We are a scratch kitchen with a simple menu, but take great care in supporting local ingredients,” Audette said. The Deck offers fresh seafood, pub food, and salads. “We grind our own burgers, bake our own buns, make our dressings and sauces,” Audette said.

Audette said that he doesn’t know how long The Deck, which would have shut for the season in October, will stay closed. “We plan on starting our rebuild as soon as we can,” he said. Susan Turner of Topsfield has dined at The Deck several times with her husband and friends, and she said she en­joys the restaurant’s burgers, swordfish — and Rum Bucket drinks, served in a sand pail with Swedish Fish. “I leapt out of bed and ran outside to see smoke down the street”. Turner heard about the fire on Facebook. “I just thought, ‘Oh, that’s sad!’ It’s a place we love to go, and we feel so badly for the owners,” she said over the phone Saturday.

The Deck opened in July 2013. A restaurant called The Fish Tail had been there. “We saved everything we could for historical respect,” Audette said, including stained-glass windows and hand-crafted cabinets. “Much of the damage was to the origi­nal structure unfortunately,” Audette said. On Saturday, the restau­rant’s Facebook page posted a message about the fire and re­ceived overwhelming support. “Thankfully nobody was in­jured during the fire this morning,” the message said. “We’re grateful and apprecia­tive of all the support.” Christi Maglio, 39, of New­buryport said she had just started going to The Deck this summer with her husband. “It’s just a very down-to-earth place to go,” she said. The nights with live music brought a sense of community, she said, and the view: “It’s beautiful.” “It’s devastating, but I know they’ll reopen as soon as possible;’ she said. Alexandra Koktsidis can be reached at alexandra.koktsidis @globe.com.
Follow her on
Twitter @akoktsidis.

Fish-Tale-4_3-11-2012
Worcester Lunch Car No. 762 as the Fish Tale Diner.
March 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

The former diner, Worcester Lunch Car No. 762 was built in 1940 and delivered to its first operating location in Ipswich, Massachusetts where it traded as the Agawam Diner from 1940 to 1947 when it was replaced by a larger streamlined diner also built by Worcester. After the diner left Ipswich it was briefly located in Brunswick, Maine (1947-1950, although I am not sure it actually operated there) before moving back to Rowley, Mass. to become one of two locations of the Agawam Diner operated by the Galanis family. It stayed in Rowley until it was again replaced by a newer diner in 1970. It was then sold and moved to Salisbury, eventually becoming the Fish Tale Diner.

When I first started going to the Fish Tale in the early 1980s, it was open very long hours and I seem to recall going there once in the middle of the night! I always enjoyed the location, possibly one of the most scenic spots I know for a diner. When the last proprietors were running it, I recall going there one summer morning and they had the doors open. They were in the habit of feeding a small group of local ducks who lived by the marina. Apparently this particular morning they were in a hurry to open the diner and neglected to feed the ducks in a timely manner. One actually came walking into the diner looking for his oyster crackers!!! I am happy to say that I actually managed to eat at the Fish Tale on the last day they were open and wrote about the diner closing in Diner Hotline – https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/fish-tale-diner-1970-2012/

After the Fish Tale closed, Mark and Conrad Audette – the owners of the marina where the diner was located demolished the old attached kitchen and replaced it with a new building that included a new kitchen as well as rest room facilities. They also did some renovations on the interior keeping the counter, stools and hood intact. They removed the original booths and tables and changed the backbar area. Keeping the attached deck for outdoor seating. the restaurant was renamed “The Deck and opened in July of 2013 and was by all accounts a huge success.

To get back to the fire, it was reported very quickly by news media outlets and was on the internet fairly early. I know I probably shared something on Facebook about it and emailed Bob Higgins my intrepid friend who was more of a regular customer of the diner than I was (he’s retired and gets around more than I do). Bob did manage to get up there before I did and talked with the owner who is hoping to salvage the diner portion of the structure and eventually reopen. I made a quick trip on Labor Day to get some photos (of the exterior only), the following photos show the structure  with the fire damage.

The-Deck-1
The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The-Deck-2
The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The-Deck-3
The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The-Deck-4
The Deck Restaurant, Bridge Marina, Salisbury, Massachusetts showing
fire damage. September 7, 2015 photo by Larry Cultrera

The next few interior shots were courtesy of Bill Power who got up to the diner before I did and like Bob Higgins, got to go inside to inspect the damage…

interior-1_The-Deck
interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

interior-2_The-Deck
interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

interior-3_The-Deck
interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

interior-4_The-Deck
interior photo showing fire damage, Sept. 2015 photo by Bill Power

I spoke briefly with Mark Audette when I was there on September 7th and he reiterated that they want to reopen the restaurant but it all depends on what the outcome is with the insurance investigation. Hopefully what is left of the diner is salvageable!

Central Diner moved from long-time home in Millbury, Massachusetts

I got word the other day from my friend Barry Henley (My Brother’s Place, Webster, Mass.) that the Central Diner was moved from its only operating location in Millbury, Massachusetts this week. The diner is a 1930 vintage Worcester Lunch Car (No. 763) which was built to replace a 1910 vintage Worcester Lunch Car on the same location for the Gillert family. They operated the 1930 diner into the 1980s before retiring and selling the property and business. There were a few operators after the Gillerts and the property that the diner sat on at some point ended up being owned by Millbury National Bank which actually blocked the diner’s inclusion to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places back around the year 2000. It was one of two diners on the multiple property submission by the Massachusetts Historical Commission to refuse the listing, the Edgemere Diner in Shrewsbury was the other one.

Central3a
Central Diner in Millbury, Mass. Photo by Larry Cultrera

The Central Diner closed earlier this year after being owned and operated by Chris and Amanda White for at least 10 years. Though capable, the White’s were not the friendliest operators I have come across. It was like night and day between them and the previous owners, Richard and Brigid Gore who were very friendly and personable. I wrote about the diner closing here… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2014/02/15/central-diner-closes-future-in-doubt/. There was recent talk that the diner was in danger of being destroyed unless someone came forward to buy and move it from the property. I know there have been possible interested buyers, but none who wanted to make the commitment. So when Barry contacted me thru Facebook, he sent along a link to a news piece about the diner being purchased and moved by Dave Pritchard of Salisbury, Mass. Dave owns Aran Trading, LTD., a company that deals in leasing and selling trucks, trailers and storage systems. Aran Trading is located just behind the former Chubby’s Diner right (Pritchard owns that one also) off I-95 at the Mass./New Hampshire line. Dave has become a sort of diner savior in the last 15 years and at various times has had the Englewood Diner, Fasano’s/Olympian Diner, the Monarch Diner and Miss Newport Diner stored at his yard. He sold the Miss Newport to Auto Dealer Kevin Meehan (Imperial Cars in the little town of Mendon, Mass.) who relocated and set the diner up as the Miss Mendon Diner. The Englewood was sold to New Balance Shoes who moved the diner adjacent to their corporate headquarters in Brighton, Mass. and restored it, using it for corporate functions as the Red Line Diner. The former Monarch Diner of Dover, NH and North Berwick, Maine was sold more recently to Roger Elkus who reopened the diner earlier this year at a new location in Portsmouth as Roger’s Redliner Diner. The last diner on the premises to my knowledge was Fasano’s/Olympian, a 1963 vintage Fodero colonial model that operated in South Braintree, Mass. until the late 1990s.

Monarch-&-Olympian-2
Fasano’s/Olympian Diner and the former Monarch Diner at Aran Trading, LTD.
Photo by Larry Cultrera

Pritchard1
The Miss Newport Diner and Englewood Diner at Aran Trading, LTD.
Photo by Larry Cultrera

I took a quick ride up to Salisbury on the morning of August 1st to get some photos and hopefully meet Dave Pritchard (finally, after all these years). I was lucky to find him at the office as he is a busy guy and is not always there! I had a pleasant time chatting with him talking about “diners”. He mentioned something that surprised me but not totally, not only did he have the Central Diner and Fasanao’s/Olympian Diner in the yard, but he also was storing Worcester Lunch Car No. 666, formerly half of the Midway Diner (Shrewsbury). Doug Johnson had this diner for years in his yard in Andover prior to selling the property recently. Doug sent this message after seeing this post… Hi Larry, Actually the Worcester #666 Diner is being stored at Dave Pritchard’s place (in Salisbury) and is for sale $10K. If anyone is interested, please contact me at doug@sunami.com Thanks.

Central-Diner-2_8-1-2014
The Central Diner at Aran Trading, LTD.

Central-Diner-1_8-1-2014
The Central Diner at Aran Trading, LTD.

Central-Diner-3_8-1-2014
Dave Pritchard posing with the Central Diner at Aran Trading, LTD.

WLC-No-666-2_8-1-2014
Worcester Lunch Car No. 666, part of the former Midway Diner last operated
on U.S. Rte. 20 in Shrewsbury, Mass. at Aran Trading, LTD

WLC-No-666-1_8-1-2014
Worcester Lunch Car No. 666, part of the former Midway Diner last operated
on U.S. Rte. 20 in Shrewsbury, Mass. at Aran Trading, LTD

midway5
Midway Diner, U.S. Rte. 20 Shrewsbury, Mass.Number 636 is the diner on the
left, 4 windows on either side of that door on the left hand side. No. 666 is the diner
closest to me (the photographer) with 3 windows on either side of the door on the right hand
side. Early 1980s photo by Larry Cultrera

I mentioned to Dave Pritchard that I noticed he also had the property a couple of blocks east on Main Street from Aran Trading that has the disguised former Dudley’s Diner on it. He confirmed that it was true and the diner was still inside the building. Below is a screen shot from Google Street View showing the building as it is today. Most people would never know there was a very rare early Sterling Diner buried within this building.

former Dudley's street view
Google Street View of the former Dudley’s Diner just down Main Street from
Aran Trading, LTD. Dave Pritchard owns this property as well.

The following to photos were from the early 1980s showing the diner before it got covered up.

Dudley's-Diner-1_6-13-1982
Dudley’s Diner the way it looked in June of 1982. Photo by Larry Cultrera

Dudley's-Diner-2_6-13-1982
Dudley’s Diner the way it looked in June of 1982. Photo by Larry Cultrera

The photo below is an exterior view of the same diner when it was brand-new at it’s original location in Ipswich. The diner was moved after a short time and ended up in Salem, Mass., then Claremont, NH before coming to Salisbury Where it was operated by Jimmy Evans who later went on to owning and operating Ann’s Diner also in Salisbury.

Strand-Diner-Ipswich-exterior
Exterior view of the Strand Diner at it’s original location in Ipswich, Mass.
This became Dudley’s Diner many years later.

Strand-Diner-Ipswich-interior
Interior view of the Strand Diner at it’s original location in Ipswich, Mass.
This became Dudley’s Diner many years later.

On another note, the diner I have referred to as Fasano’s/Olympian was bought brand-new by the Fasano Family and operated from 1963 until June of  1998 in South Braintree, Mass. The Fasano’s sold the diner in 1976 and by 1981 Paul Margetis became the owner who operated it as the Olympian Diner until 1998 when he was forced off the property for a new Osco Drug store. Margetis wanted to move the diner to another location nearby but that idea was eventually shot down by the town of Braintree. Ironically Ralph Fasano, the grandson of the original owner stepped in and bought the diner and moved it into storage with the hopes of finding a new location for it. That too never worked out and Dave Pritchard bought the diner. Dave informed me that he has in fact recently sold the diner and it will be moved to Leominster, Mass. in the near future although it is not clear if the new owner will put it into service.

Englewood Diner becomes Red Line Diner

Red-Line-Diner-3
Red Line Diner, now located in Brighton, Mass.
October 26, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera
Formerly the Englewood Diner of Dorchester, Mass.

I have been a little remiss in posting anything throughout November as I was scanning a bunch of slides, 180 or so (to be sort of exact). They were all of the photos/slides I had ever shot of Rosie’s Diner when it was in Little Ferry, NJ. The bulk of the slides came from the last weekend of operation in January of 1990 and the preparation for moving the structure on the next weekend. I had promised my friend Arnie Corrado (son of former owner Ralph Corrado, Jr.) back then that I would give him copies of all the photos I had shot. This plan sort of became cost restrictive when I realized how many images there were. Well, with all the new digital technology at my disposal nowadays, I could finally keep my promise. So for almost 3 weeks, I spent the extra time I had scanning all the images. Better late than never! I actually turned it into a slide show movie which can be found on Youtube……… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XlDiGzRM3I. I will eventually do a post about it here in the near future. Now on to the subject of this post……

A year ago Denise and I had made a trip (along with Beth Lennon and Cliff Hillis) up to Salisbury, Massachusetts to meet with Roger Elkus and Daryl McGann who had purchased the former Monarch Diner, originally of Dover, NH. The diner had not been in service since the early 1970s when it last operated in South Berwick, Maine. Dave Pritchard of Salisbury had started buying old diners a number of years ago and storing them at his truck/trailer company yard in Salisbury. The diners included the Miss Newport Diner of Newport, VT (now the Miss Mendon of Mendon, Mass.) the Englewood Diner last operated in Dorchester, Mass., and the Olympian Diner formerly of Braintree, Mass. as well as the Monarch. When we got into the yard I noticed the only diners left were the Monarch and the Olympian. I asked Roger and Daryl what happened to the Englewood and they told me that the owner of New Balance Footwear had purchased it and moved it to an undisclosed location.

Fast forward to October 25, 2013, when I received an email from Randy Garbin that had some attached photos from someone named Todd Purple. The message that accompanied the photos was short and sweet….. “Did you know about this”? I checked out the photos and low and behold, there was the former Englewood Diner looking to be completely restored on the exterior, sporting a new name….. Red Line! According to the email, it was located down behind 38 Everett Street in the Brighton section of Boston. Everett St. runs between Western Ave. in Allston and North Beacon St. in Brighton. The area was once primarily a mix of houses and somewhat run-down industrial buildings that has had a rebirth with parts of it being resurrected as an upscale office park. In fact a huge part of this rebirth can be directly attributed to New Balance Footwear as their Headquarters is located within a block of this property.

So, the 25th being a Friday, I decided to take a ride over to Brighton to check out this new location the very next day, where I managed to shoot some nice photos of it.

Red-Line-Diner-10
Red Line Diner, Brighton, Mass.
October 26, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Red-Line-Diner-2
Red Line Diner, Brighton, Mass.
October 26, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Red-Line-Diner-1
Red Line Diner, Brighton, Mass.
October 26, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Red-Line-Diner-4
Red Line Diner, Brighton, Mass.
October 26, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Red-Line-Diner-5
Red Line Diner, Brighton, Mass.
October 26, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

In looking closely at the exterior, the new steel panels seem to be painted instead of the porcelain enameled panels it originally had. Certainly a reasonable facsimile of the originals… and let me be clear, this was professionally done. Even the roof shingles look similar though not identical to what had previously been there, giving it a period look in keeping with the original style of the diner. The interior did not need much as the following photos show….

Red-Line-Diner-8
Interior view of the Red Line Diner, Brighton, Mass.
October 26, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Red-Line-Diner-9
Interior view of the Red Line Diner, Brighton, Mass.
October 26, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Red-Line-Diner-6
Interior view of the Red Line Diner, Brighton, Mass.
October 26, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Red-Line-Diner-7
Interior view of the Red Line Diner, Brighton, Mass.
October 26, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Early on the next week I did some digging and was able to leave a message to a department in the corporate offices at New Balance Footwear. Within a couple of hours my wife Denise called to let me know there was a message from someone named Laurie at New Balance. When I returned her call, Laurie informed me that the restored diner is being used for corporate functions only and not open to the public (as I suspected).

As I mentioned above, the Englewood Diner operated for years in the Peabody Square neighborhood of Dorchester. It closed in 1979 when the land it was on was slated to be redeveloped, replaced by a high-rise building for senior housing. This was almost a year before I started photographing diners so I never was able to document it in that location. But luckily it was documented by others like David Hebb and Dick Gutman. Dick was kind enough to lend me this image (below) of the Englewood Diner when it was located across from Ashmont Station in Peabody Square, Dorchester…..

englewood-4113-1a
Englewood Diner, 1970s vintage photo by Richard J.S. Gutman

So after it closed in 1979, the diner was moved to Pat’s Towing Company yard in the Cambridgeport neighborhood, just outside of Central Square in Cambridge. It stayed at that storage location through 1981.

Englewood-Diner-1
My first shot of the Englewood Diner taken from the roof of my 1979 Chevy van looking over the fence of Pat’s Towing Company in Cambridge.
1981 photo by Larry Cultrera

In fact, Dick and Kelly Gutman were the ones who showed me where it was being stored on one of our first “Diner Excursions” in 1981 where I obtained the photo above. It was relocated to the Cambridge/Somerville town line in a yard maintained by Wayside Leasing on Park Street just off Somerville Avenue, where it stayed until 1984.

Englewood-Diner-2
Englewood Diner at Wayside Leasing storage yard in Somerville
1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Englewood-Diner-3
Englewood Diner at Wayside Leasing storage yard in Somerville
1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

Englewood-Diner-4
Englewood Diner at Wayside Leasing storage yard in Somerville
1982 photo by Larry Cultrera

In 1984, the diner was bought by Brian Burke, a general contractor from Dorchester. His plan was to repatriate the diner back to its longtime hometown. He had some property adjacent to the Bradlees department store that was on Morrissey Boulevard at the corner of Victory Road. Burke took his time in setting up the diner and finally opened it in 1986. It was operated by at least two if not three operators prior to closing in the early 1990s.

Englewood-Diner-9
Englewood Diner temporarily parked at Kendall Square in Cambridge
on the way back to Dorchester. 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Englewood-Diner-17
Englewood Diner temporarily parked at Kendall Square in Cambridge
on the way back to Dorchester. 1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Englewood-Diner-20
The Englewood Diner newly arrived at Victory Road in Dorchester.
1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

Englewood-Diner-57
The Englewood Diner at its last operating location. It operated here from 1986 to 1992.
1984 photo by Larry Cultrera

In 1992, the Englewood was closed and sold at auction to Dennis “Skip” Scipione, owner of the Blue Moon Diner in Gardner. Skip had plans to reopen the diner and kept it in storage in neighboring Ashburnham, Mass. until the right time and place came about.  It looked like it would happen in 1997 when the diner moved to the northern part of Fitchburg. The next 3 photos show the diner at that proposed location….

Englewood-Diner-58
Englewood Diner at proposed location in Fitchburg.1997 photo by Larry Cultrera

Englewood-Diner-59
Englewood Diner at proposed location in Fitchburg.
1997 photo by Larry Cultrera

Englewood-Diner-60
Englewood Diner at proposed location in Fitchburg.
1997 photo by Larry Cultrera

This location in Fitchburg never actually came to fruition and the diner embarked on a series of moves to at least two if not three different storage locations over the next few years. In fact Skip finally sold the diner to Dan Johnston in the year 2000. Johnston purchased it for $20,000, moved the diner to the town of Holden.  Johnston’s plans for the diner were somewhat vague. In one instance he talked about reopening it and another was possibly attaching it to his house for private use. None of that ever happened and in fact, according to Randy Garbin of Roadside Online, Johnston even had the diner listed on Ebay for a short time.

While in Johnston’s possession, the diner ended up taking its longest round trip to be in a big budget Hollywood movie! Johnston was approached by Dreamworks Production Company in 2001. Dreamworks wanted to use the diner in a scene of the movie “Road to Perdition” starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. According to Garbin as quoted from his book Diners of New England, Dreamworks reportedly paid Johnston nearly $40,000 giving Johnston the first option to purchase it back after the scenes in the movie were completed.

The diner was transported to the Chicago area for the film and Johnston bought it back for less than half his original sale price. As Garbin noted the time-frame of the film was set in 1931 while purists would note that the diner is from 1941…… details, details!!!

englewood-in-movie
Publicity still showing the Englewood Diner during its star turn
from the Hollywood production of Road to Perdition.
photo courtesy of http://film-grab.com/tag/daniel-craig/

A few months after Johnston got the diner back he flipped it yet again to Matt Letellier of Eliot, Maine whose plan was to attach the diner to his on-site built Downeast Diner. The next 3 photos show the Englewood in Eliot, ME….

Englewood_Maine-1a
Englewood Diner in Eliot, Maine. 2002 photo by Larry Cultrera

Englewood_Maine-2
Englewood Diner in Eliot, Maine. 2002 photo by Larry Cultrera

Englewood_Maine-3a
Englewood Diner in Eliot, Maine. 2002 photo by Larry Cultrera

Unfortunately, Letellier’s plans never came to be and he turned around and sold the diner to Dave Pritchard in 2003. That is when the Englewood came to Salisbury where it stayed until 2012 and ultimately purchased by New Balance Footwear.

I will say that although this diner has had an interesting life in the last 35 years, it can also be said that it probably has the most mileage, being one of the most traveled diners in history! Now that it has found more than likely a permanent home in Brighton, as well as a new lease on life…. it is almost like an old racehorse being put out to pasture in its golden years!

Roger’s Redliner Diner finds a home

Back in December I made a visit to Salisbury, Mass. to reconnect with a diner I first saw in 1989. I wrote about it here in January…. https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/notes-from-the-hotline-jan-20-2013/. This was the former Monarch Diner that was originally located in Dover, NH from 1950 to 1968. It was moved to North Berwick, Maine and operated for a short time as Lois’ Diner. It remained closed on-site in North Berwick from 1973 to 1986 and was moved to storage in Sanford, Maine, where I first saw it in 1989. Here is a post I did in March of 2010 on abandoned diners that shows the diner in Sanford….. https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2010/03/26/abandoned-luncheonettes/

Ironically I saw this diner along a stretch of road somewhere in southern Maine possibly 10 years later. I believe it was in transition and possibly on its way to Salisbury where it remained in storage until 2 weeks ago. Roger Elkus who is the owner of the “Me & Ollie’s Bakery/Cafe chain of southeastern NH along with his production manager Daryl McGann have plans to reopen the former Monarch Diner and operate it as Roger’s Redliner Diner. It will become an anchor of one end of  the new section of Southgate Plaza shopping center being constructed on Lafayette Rd (U.S. Rte. 1) abutting Water Country water park. In fact, it looks like the building for the kitchen/rest rooms is actually part of the new addition to the shopping center. Basically the diner will be grafted to the front of that building. They have a lot of work to do to get this diner up and running again. All the windows need replacement glass and the exterior needs some sprucing up. All the original stripes (I am assuming they were red – possibly flex-glass reflective strips) are missing. These can easily be replaced with a red plastic or enamel strip and an entryway vestibule will need to be either recreated or a reasonable facsimile be built. Elkus and McGann are shooting for an opening in the Fall of this year. We wish them luck!

Roger's-Redliner-1
Roger’s Redliner Diner on site at the new location in Portsmouth, NH
June 23, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Roger's-Redliner-3a
Close-up of Roger’s Redliner Diner. June 23, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Roger's-Redliner-2a
Roger’s Redliner Diner showing the pad and piers supporting the structure
June 23, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Roger's-Redliner-4a
Rear view showing the footing of the building the diner will be grafted on to.
June 23, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Notes from the Hotline, Jan. 20, 2013

Well, it is the middle of winter and I am feeling sort of lazy. But I also feel neglectful to my regular readers as well so I am forcing myself to get my rear end in gear and do a quick blog post on things that are happening. Subjects I will talk about  include the planned resurrection of a diner that has not operated since the early 1970’s and been in storage for close to 27 years, news about 2 diners that are featured in my book “Classic Diners of Massachusetts”, an upcoming author event I instigated and a long-time local 5 & dime department store that is closing. Also a link to an interesting blog post about the closing of someone’s favorite diner, so, here we go…..

Former Monarch Diner gets a new lease on life

Monarch-&-Olympian-2
Left to right…. the former Olympia Diner of Braintree, Mass and
the former Monarch Diner of Dover, NH
December 22, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

I heard from Retro Road gal Beth Lennon in November via Facebook. She asked if I was interested in getting together with her and her hubby Cliff Hillis on the weekend before Christmas. She had recently made the acquaintance of  Roger Elkus and Daryl McGann, (Roger is the owner of Me & Ollie’s a small chain of Bakery/Cafe’s in the southeastern part of New Hampshire
and Daryl is his Production Manager see… http://www.meandollies.com/). They informed her of their plans for a 1950 vintage stainless steel O’Mahony diner they had acquired.

Cliff and Beth were driving up from Pheonixville, PA to visit with family in Massachusetts and New Hampshire for the holidays. Part of the itinerary included a stop at Kane’s Donuts in my hometown of Saugus on the way to a family gathering in New Hampshire. The plan was for Denise and I to meet Beth and Cliff at Kane’s and then motor up to Salisbury to meet up with Roger and Daryl at the the storage yard where the old diner they were buying has been located for a number of years.

Beth-and-Larry-at-Kane's
Beth Lennon & yours truly outside Kane’s Donuts. Dec. 22, 2012 photo
by Cliff Hillis

So after a cup of coffee at Kane’s (where I introduced them to Peter Delios, whose family runs the donut shop) – as planned, it was off to Salisbury where we met Roger and Daryl. We were all surprised to find the gate to the storage yard closed, as it usually was opened. Luckily the chain that locked the 2 gates was loose enough that we could squeeze thru (a little tight for me but I made it). Roger brought a step ladder along to climb up into the diner.

Daryl-McGann-&-Roger-Elkus
Daryl McGann and Roger Elkus inside the former Monarch Diner
December 22, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

During our visit to the diner in Salisbury, Roger showed us where the serial number for the diner was located. It was on the stainless steel molding for the front door frame directly under the bottom hinge.

Monarch-4a
An extreme close-up of the Serial number for the old Monarch Diner
from Dover, NH.  According to Gary Thomas’  – “Diners of the North Shore” book, the other O’Mahony the DeCola’s bought for Waltham, Mass. was Serial number 2179-50. The number “50” denotes the year it was built.
December 22, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

P.S.  That other 1950 vintage O’Mahony incidentally is currently operating as the Tilt’n Diner in Tilton, NH…… LAC

Monarch-1
Beth Lennon and Cliff Hillis inside the former Monarch Diner
December 22, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Now for a little back story on this diner…. it was originally one of a chain of diners owned and operated by the DeCola brothers of Waltham, Mass. (in some cases they leased the diners to other operators) Most of the diners they ran were called the Monarch Diner. The flagship was located in Waltham with other Monarch’s in Dover, NH and Milford, NH as well as Saugus, Mass. They had other diners they ran with names like the Littleton Diner of Littleton, Mass. as well as a diner called the Paradise Diner in Lowell, Mass. (not the current one, there were 2) and another diner in either Billerica or Chelmsford (I cannot recall which or even if it was a Monarch). The diner we were in Salisbury to look at was the former Dover, NH Monarch Diner which operated at 530 Central Ave. in that southeastern New Hampshire city.

According to Will Anderson’s “More Good Old Maine” book (1995 – Will Anderson Publishing), even though the diner was owned by the DeCola’s, it was more than likely leased by at least 3 different operators until December of 1968 when it was purchased by Edward & Phyllis Neal who moved the diner to North Berwick, Maine. The Neal’s intended to utilize the diner as a flower shop initially, but after the diner was installed at the new location, they ended up leasing the diner to Lois Griffin who ran it as Lois’ Diner. The diner reportedly closed in 1973 and sat vacant until 1986 before being moved to Phyllis Neal’s property in Sanford, Maine.

I actually knew of the diner back in March of 1989 when I visited a friend who lived in the Sanford area. He used to drive by the diner’s storage location twice a day. We got to his house and he said let’s take a ride, keeping the destination as a surprise. We came around a bend in the road and there was the diner sitting up on blocks!

Fast forward to the early 2000’s when Dave Pritchard of Salisbury convinced Phyllis Neal to sell the old diner. Dave had bought up 3 other old diners and stored them on his property in Salisbury. The other 3 were the Englewood Diner, Olympian Diner and Miss Newport Diner. Pritchard had no concrete plans for any of the diners until he eventually sold the Miss Newport (now reopened as the Miss Mendon Diner) and more recently the Englewood (which is reportedly in private hands).

Roger Elkus and Daryl McGann in the last year or so were discussing the possibility of obtaining an old diner to operate in conjunction (but separate) with the Me & Ollie’s Cafes. To make a long story short, they found their way to Salisbury and Dave Pritchard. They eventually convinced Pritchard to sell them the old Monarch and hopefully before this year is out, their plan is to relocate the diner and restore it and have it operating. I will post a more detailed story about this in the next few months.

Peabody, Massachusetts’ Little Depot Diner
under new ownership

One of the diners featured in my book “Classic Diners of Massachusetts” has recently changed hands. This was not unexpected news. Right around the same time my book was being printed (September, 2011), the Miles family – owners of the diner since 2008 abruptly closed the diner. But within a month they reopened it with only weekend hours basically keeping it a viable business while searching for a new owner to operate it. Well back in November I received an email from Peter Scanlon of North Easton, Mass. who informed me his son Ross and new daughter-in-law Alicia had taken over the reigns of the 1929 vintage Worcester Lunch Car.

Little-Depot-3
The Little Depot Diner in Peabody, Mass. Photo by Larry Cultrera

The Miles family stayed with them to show them the ropes for a short time. After Ross and Alicia’s wedding and honeymoon around Thanksgiving the newlyweds reopened the diner, again testing the water with only weekend hours. After the first of the year, the diner is now open 6 days a week, Tuesday thru Friday: 7:00 am – 1:30 pm, Saturday & Sunday: 7:00 am – 1:00 pm. Denise and I have been there twice since they reopened and found the food to be good quality and the service very friendly! The diner is located at 1 Railroad Avenue, just behind the Courthouse in downtown Peabody.

Peter_Ross_Alicia-Little-Depot
Peter, Ross and Alicia Scanlon @ The Little Depot Diner, Peabody, Mass.
December 15, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

Al Mac’s Diner of Fall River, Mass. set to reopen

Al-Mac's-5
Al Mac’s Diner, Fall River, Mass. Photo by Larry Cultrera

Back in late July I posted the news that Al Mac’s Diner of Fall River closed abruptly. (see… https://dinerhotline.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/news-flash-al-macs-diner-of-fall-river-mass-closes/). This was disturbing to me as this was again another featured diner in my book “Classic Diners of Massachusetts”.  Well it now looks like the diner will reopen under new ownership around February 1, 2013. I saw the news back on December 11, 2012 from The Herald News out of Fall River.
Here is the story was written by Brian Fraga……..

FALL RIVER —

Robert Dunse II remembers when he was a kid eating his first chocolate chip pancake at Al Mac’s Diner. “I sat down at the end of that counter top. My parents used to bring us here,” Dunse, 25, said Tuesday inside the historic diner at 135 President Ave., which will reopen next month. Dunse, his sister, Laura Reed, and their mother, Susan Dunse, all Fall River natives, recently leased the diner, which the previous owner, Norman Gauthier, closed in July, citing financial difficulties.

On Tuesday, construction workers were busy inside the diner, updating the interior and preparing the space for a series of additions that will include new vinyl booths, and possibly a jukebox. The building’s exterior, including the famous Al Mac’s sign, is also being refinished. There is even a new website — http://www.almacsdiner.net — in development. “I’m basically redoing the whole place. It’s getting a major, major facelift,” said Dunse, a 2008 graduate of Johnson & Wales University who previously worked for a catering company in Providence. Before that, Dunse said he worked as a personal chef for New England Patriots owner Robert Craft.

The family signed the lease for the diner in early November. Dunse said he moved home to Fall River in the summer when he saw the “For Lease” sign in Al Mac’s window. “I was moving all my stuff. I had a full carload full of furniture and everything,” Dunse said. “I saw the ‘For Lease’ sign. I called (his mother), asked, ‘What do you think?’ I got the information on it, made the phone call.” Susan Dunse, a former employee with the Fall River School Department, said the family had always talked about opening up a restaurant. She said Robert’s great grandfather and his brother owned the old Columbus Cafe in Fall River.

“Restaurants and food is kind of in the family,” she said. Robert Dunse said he expects to reopen Al Mac’s by early January. He said the menu will be updated with American, Italian, Polish and Southern comfort fare, among other family favorites. “We really want more of a classic diner feel, with the milk shakes, with the late night, with the crazy breakfast specials, the large portion sizes, the working-man lunch specials,” he said. “Everything is going to be fresh. We’re bringing good food to the city. My motto is four-star food at a one-star price.”

Dunse said his sous chef — the second in command — left his job in fine dining to come work at the new Al Mac’s. “Lot of talent here,” Dunse said. Al Mac’s has been part of Fall River’s landscape for more than a century. Its founder, Al McDermott, started the business in 1910 on a six-seat, horse-drawn wagon. The stainless steel diner on President Avenue was built in 1953. The diner was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

“We’re from Fall River. It’s Fall River people, bringing stuff back to Fall River,” said Susan Dunse, who remarked Tuesday that the interior still looks much as it did during the 1950s. “We’re bringing back the booths. People are very excited about the booths,” she said. Robert Dunse said he believes customers will return and keep the diner financially viable this time around.

“If you have good food, people will come,” he said. “If you provide a great environment where people feel comfortable and at home, and you develop personal relationships, people are going to come no matter what.”

Lord’s Department Store of Medfield, Mass. set to close

Lord's-Dept-Store-2a
Lord’s Department Store, 446 Main St. (Rte. 109) in Medfield, Mass.
January 13, 2013 Photo by Larry Cultrera

Back on January 4th, I got a message from Beth Lennon who was concerned about a local landmark…. Lord’s Department Store, a long-time fixture in the small town of Medfield, Massachusetts. She had heard that the store is set to close its doors at the end of February and was concerned about the great neon sign that was mounted on the building.I was somewhat familiar with it most like from Beth’s posts about it on her Retro Roadmap blog, see…. (http://www.retroroadmap.com/). So after I was aware of this news I did a little research and this is what I found out……

Started as a small “5 and 10 cent” store in 1940, the place was opened by Raymond Lord, a former employee of Kresge’s 5 and 10 cent stores out of New York City. The story goes that Mr. Lord had used some faulty marketing research that was done by the Kresge organization on likely towns that might support a 5 an 10 cent store. It seems Medfield had a population of around 4500 which seemed perfect. So Mr Lord left Kresge’s to open his own store in the seemingly bustling community of Medfield. He opened his store in an existing storefront down the street from the current store and was surprised to see that there was hardly any business for the first week.

He ended up talking with an employee of the local U.S. Post Office and asked the man where are all the people that are supposed to be living here? He told him that he had heard the population was around 4500 and the man said yes, that was possibly true, except for one thing, about 3000 of  those people were locked up in the State Hospital! So much for marketing research circa 1940!

Well Mr. Lord stuck it out and pretty much from day one, he had the able help of William Kelly, a local lad who was an extremely hard worker. Mr. Kelly had the people skills and strong work ethic that appealed to Lord who eventually gave the young Kelly more and more responsibility. After Kelly returned from service during WWII, he was made the manager of the store.

In the early 1950’s Bill Kelly took over the day to day operations as a partner to Ray Lord. By the late 50’s the store moved to it’s current location and eventually Kelly bought the business. It has been run by Bill and more recently his son Tom and daughter Nancy Kelly-Lavin. Bill passed away this past May and Tom and Nancy by the end of the year decided that they would close the store and sell the property.

The store has become the heart and soul of the downtown area, everyone who lives in the vicinity has great memories of the store which had a little bit of everything. It was open 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It featured a lunch counter/soda fountain and recently was operated as Ruthie’s Diner.

Lord's-Dept-Store-1
Ruthie’s Diner inside Lord’s Department Store
January 13, 2013 photo by Larry Cultrera

Denise and I took a ride down this past Sunday Jan. 13th and had a cup of coffee at the lunch counter. We also walked around the store and as we were leaving, we met Nancy Kelly-Lavin.  We had a nice conversation with her as she related some stories to us. We wished her well and went on our way. The latest word is that there is a possibility the classic neon sign may be kept on the building by the new owner, giving the towns people a little piece of mind that their downtown might still have a bit of their local landmark for generations to come.

Eulogy for the Harvest Diner, by Michael R. Fisher

My friend Rich Wilhelm of Phoenixville, PA (a neighbor and friend of Beth Lennon and Cliff Hillis) sent me a link to a blog post his nephew Michael Fisher wrote lamenting the closong of his local diner. I read the piece and asked Michael permission to  re-post it here……

After nineteen years in business, my diner is closing.

Like all residents of suburban South Jersey, I have (sadly, as of this coming Sunday, had) a go-to diner. And while many of my SoJerz brethren may have thought of the local diner as little more than a necessary stop on the way home from the bar on a woozy Saturday night, the Harvest has meant much more to me.

Whether playing its role as hangout, employer, home away from home or whathaveyou, the Harvest was always a welcoming, reliable beacon of 24-hour light thrusting upward from the middle of the disenchanted-and-we-like-it-that-way Jersey suburbs. See, I’m a city kid; the general artlessness of the ‘burbs, taken (not incorrectly) by its devoted residents as the signature of comfort and stability, has always turned me off in a Springsteenesque “it’s a death trap/it’s a suicide rap” kind of way, albeit less melodramatically. But the diner was always necessary. Its policy of being open all night encouraged coffee talk, which is still the highest form of human interaction, save perhaps tantric sex. Nobody in their twenties lives at home if things are going well for them, so the 24-hour diner became the haven of late-night plotting and dreaming and decompressing as we faced the future armed only with coffee and cigarettes and the nametags given us by our retail jobs. That is, until we lost those jobs and started working at the diner.

It sounds like that diner could have been any diner, and maybe it was after all just happenstance that made the Harvest our diner, but that doesn’t matter. It was ours, and it was special. It was owned by the Savvas, the nicest family of Cypriot-Americans you’d ever hope to meet; people who offered me work–twice–when the doors of the rest of the world slammed in my face; people who were never shy about helping their friends. I worked there off and on for three years, and while nobody’s saying that waiting tables is next to godliness, I can say that you’d be hard-pressed to find a better work environment, and that’s the rarest of compliments when it comes to Jersey diners.

(As a point of comparison, I once worked at another diner, which shall remain nameless. On my fourth day of employment, after being harassed from the first minute about keeping up with their post-Steinbrenner wardrobe and grooming requirements, I showed up for a shift with sideburns that reached about two-thirds of the way to my ear lobes. My manager instructed me to go home, trim the sideburns down to where they met my hairline, then come back to work and finish my shift. I went home, but I did not return, and I have not set foot in that diner since.)

With the closing of the Harvest Diner, the Chekhovian drama of our lives as confirmed (if reluctant) townies comes to a crashing climax. Our hangout spot is deserting us just as our precious youth is doing the same. It may seem overwrought, but the whole point of the Harvest, far beyond being a place to get breakfast at any hour, was to be the great, comforting constant in the lives of its beloved regulars. We all have stories in which the Harvest plays a key part; having been a fixture there for some ten years, I probably have more than most. Inside jokes were born there; strangers discovered mutual interests and became friends within its green-and-yellow booths. The Harvest was the trusty nightwatchman of our past, and as long as it stood, our past was safe and our youth preserved. Now that it is saying goodbye, we are shaken into an understanding of our mortality. If the Harvest and all of those wonderful times there can just vanish, so, then, can we.

As this is happening, I am twenty-six years old. I have a 9-to-5 job and student loan payments. I am looking at homes in other towns. I am preparing to leave my old neighborhood, and though wherever I go will not be far, the closing of the Harvest is a cold reminder that life is changing. Of course, not all moments of transition carry the kind of Last Picture Show gloom that I’ve been insinuating. I’m sure the changes in my life will spur growth, maturity, independence, responsibility–all those sacred middle-class values. One day I may even be able to behave like a proper adult. I will be fine, and my friends will be fine. But the Harvest, sadly, will not be there to go back to.

Good luck to my friends, the Savva family, and all those currently employed at Harvest. And thank you.

Here’s a link to the original blog post…. http://michaelroyfisher.wordpress.com/2013/01/17/euology-for-the-harvest-diner/

On a further note, I read in the last couple of days that the diner will close but eventually reopen in the spring with a new name and a new look by the owners of the Sage Diner of Mt. Laurel, NJ…. LAC

Author Event slated for Bestsellers Cafe in Medford, Mass.
January 27, 2013

diners-of-mass-front-cvr-final

I arranged an Author Event with Rob Dilman owner of the newly reopened Bestsellers Cafe in Medford, Mass. (the city I grew up in). I have gotten together a small group of local authors to participate. With the exception of myself all the other authors have published books about Medford either thru Arcadia Publishing (Images of America books) and/or from my publisher, The History Press. The other authors include Anthony Mitchell Sammarco, author of “Medford” (Arcadia) as well as countless other titles from the Greater Boston area. Barbara Kerr who authored “Medford in the Victorian Era” for Arcadia and “Glimpses of Medford” for The History Press. Dee Morris authored “Medford, A Brief History” for The History Press (among other local titles) and Patricia Saunders who wrote “Medford – Then & Now” for Arcadia.

We will all be signing copies of our books as well as speaking about them. The event will take place at Bestsellers cafe, 24 High Street, Medford, Mass. on Jan. 27th, Sunday afternoon, 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Check out Bestsellers Cafe’s website for directions, etc…..
http://www.bestsellers-cafe.com/event

Fish Tale Diner, 1970 – 2012

Rumors have floated around for the last few years that the Fish Tale Diner of Salisbury, Mass. was eventually going to close. Unfortunately, that day has finally come. Michelle Merrill Freeman and her family have been leasing the diner for 19 years and it is with a heavy heart that they have decided not to renew the lease with their landlord, the Bridge Marina. Various reasons have been mentioned as to the closing (I will not go into that here), but the story is, the diner will probably never reopen at this location again.


Fish Tale Diner, last day of service. March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

The Fish Tale is Worcester Lunch Car No. 762 and was the original Agawam Diner that was bought brand-new by the Galanis family in 1940 and operated for over 6 years in Ipswich. The Galanis’ bought a larger Worcester Lunch Car in 1947 to replace the first. At that point in time, the first diner was sold to a family who operated it at Cook’s Corner in Brunswick, Maine until 1950, when that owner could not make a go of the business.


Fish Tale Diner, last day of service. March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

It then was bought back by the Galanis’ who had it refurbished by Worcester Lunch Car before having it installed at a new location on the corner of Route 133 and U.S. Route 1 in Rowley, Mass. where it operated until 1970 when it was replaced by the current Agawam Diner. This is when the first Agawam Diner was moved to Salisbury to become the Fish Tale Diner. The new location had to be one of the most scenic operating sites for any diner in Massachusetts. Located on the shore of the Merrimac River on Rings Island overlooking Newburyport, the view was always exquisite!


Fish Tale Diner, last day of service. March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

When I first started patronizing the Fish Tale Diner in the early 1980’s it was being run by “Fast Ed” and Dot Chooljian and their daughters, Debbie, Diane, and Patricia. It was open very long hours, in fact the diner was famous for its overnight hours. I am not sure when they left the business but I do know Michelle Merrill Freeman along with her sisters Jeannie Merrill, Rhonda Merrill Griffin, Mabel Merrill Lewis and Wendy Merrill, have been the heart and soul (as well as the beauty and brains) of this diner  for the past 19 years!


Denise Cultrera sitting at the counter at the Fish Tale Diner,
last day of service. March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

In the last couple of years, I have been getting semi-regular news updates from the stalwart Bob Higgins who has managed to frequent the diner once or twice a week for a number of years. He has been relating to me news such as the possible imminent closing of the diner due to various circumstances that might have been happening. But luckily, most of those have gone by the wayside until now. A couple of weeks ago, he told me that the diner was closing for sure, by the end of this month (if not sooner).


Fish Tale Diner, last day of service. March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

So I started making plans to have one last breakfast at the diner. I had been shooting for yesterday (Saturday the 10th of March) but the weather turned out to be a little iffy with snow squalls in that section of the North Shore. So I decided to stay close to home. That very same afternoon Bob informed me via email that the diner was closing today so that sealed the deal and Denise and I headed up to Salisbury this morning around 7:00 am. We walked thru the door and there was Bob Higgins along with his wife Jeanne. So we all had a nice last meal enjoying the service of waitress extraordinaire Mabel Lewis.


Jeanne & Bob Higgins along with Mabel Lewis at the Fish Tale Diner,
last day of service. March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

One thing I should mention, whenever I have had breakfast at the Fish Tale Diner in recent years, I have always ordered the “Apple Pancakes”! This diner is one of the few that carried that item on the menu and I could not bring myself to order anything else! I will certainly miss that!


close-up of the sign of the Fish Tale Diner, last day of service.
March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera

I, along with other diner enthusiasts lament the closing and can only hope that the owners of the Bridge Marina my decide to sell the diner at a later date to someone who will move it and hopefully reopen it at a new location.


One last look at the Fish Tale Diner, last day of service. Goodbye old friend!
March 11, 2012 photo by Larry Cultrera