Dartmouth Man Pledges $25,000 to Shawmut Diner Rehab
The story of the historic Shawmut Diner is taking new twists and turns by the day. A renewed interest in the once popular 70-year-old diner promises new hope for the future.
The Shawmut Diner, built in 1953, sat at Shawmut Avenue and Hathaway Road for 61 years before owners Phil and Celeste Paleologos, who bought the diner in 1983, donated it to the Bristol County House of Corrections for rehabilitating inmates by teaching them job skills and responsibility.
It was a noble gesture that earned the couple neither a penny in profit nor tax write-off, as has been alleged by some critics of the donation.
The diner has languished on jail grounds for nine years, with former Sheriff Tom Hodgson unable to convince the Commonwealth to appropriate funds to make Phil and Celeste's dream a reality.
With the inauguration of new Sheriff Paul Heroux, who is giving the department's mobile command center to the New Bedford Police Department to reduce unused clutter, it seemed appropriate to inquire about the fate of the Shawmut Diner.
Public Information Officer Jonathan Darling replied, "Sheriff Heroux will be exploring options for the Shawmut Diner in the months ahead."
Those options could include selling the dinner.
Former Fall River City Councilor Cliff Ponte, a real estate broker and owner of Fall River's Al Mac's Diner, expressed an interest in acquiring the Shawmut Diner last year.
Ponte said he has been contacted by the Sheriff's Department.
"They emailed me a week ago, and I'm going to go look at it," he said.
"Sheriff Heroux is exploring options on the diner, and Cliff is one of those options," Darling said, before adding, "Tell Phil we'll be in touch as well as we explore options."
However, Paleologos said if it's just going to sit there, he and Celeste want it back.
Now, the latest plot twist.
Dartmouth's David Vermette of VCORP/Vermette Development has pledged $25,000 if the diner is "fixed and used for inmate training at the Bristol County House of Corrections." He is also challenging others in the business community to help as well.
"I am a believer that with the right opportunities and a positive mindset, people can learn from their mistakes and choose to live a law-abiding productive life," Vermette said.
"If we do not help individuals that have made mistakes and are incarcerated then we give them very little chance to ever change their lives," he said.
Vermette thinks it could be a lesson for others as well.
"God forgives everyone if they ask for his forgiveness, so who are we as individuals or a society not to forgive and help others to better themselves?" he said.