New Bedford Shawmut Diner Donor to Bristol County Sheriff: Use It or Give It Back
New Bedford's celebrated Shawmut Diner is marking a couple of milestone anniversaries this year. Unfortunately, the future of the beloved diner still remains in limbo.
The diner, built 70 years ago in 1953, was located at 943 Shawmut Avenue at Hathaway Road. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places 20 years ago, in 2003.
WBSM's "Morning Mayor" Phil Paleologos and his wife Celeste purchased the Shawmut Diner 40 years ago in 1983. Phil broadcast his daily radio program for the Talk America Radio Network from the diner for years before joining the WBSM family.
When the Paleologos family sold the property in 2014, they donated the diner to the Bristol County House of Corrections as a training facility for rehabilitating inmates. The Commonwealth has been less than enthusiastic about funding the project.
Today, the Shawmut Diner sits on blocks, slowly deteriorating on land owned by the Bristol County House of Corrections on Faunce Corner Road in Dartmouth, its fate uncertain.
Phil and Celeste are frustrated.
For a piece I wrote last year updating the diner's status, Phil told me, "Celeste and I are patient because we realize how government moves at a snail's pace."
But Phil's patience is running out.
"We have a win-win situation here for the inmates and their future once out of corrections," he said.
"My dream is to use the diner as a tool to help incarcerated people move forward upon release with a sense of accomplishment," Celeste said.
New Bristol County Sheriff Paul Heroux hasn't decided what to do with the donated diner. Public Information Officer Jonathan Darling told me that "Sheriff Heroux will be exploring options for the Shawmut Diner in the months ahead."
Phil is getting frustrated.
"If it's just going to sit there, I want it back," he said. "Give it to a school like (GNB Voc-Tech) to utilize it for its culinary arts program or a non-profit to feed indigent people."
"Waiting all these years goes against the grain for why we donated it in the first place," he said. "A lot of people have missed the boat on the whole concept, and that has frustrated us so much."
Former Fall River City Councilor Cliff Ponte, the owner of Al Mac's Diner, has expressed an interest in the Shawmut Diner if the Massachusetts Department of Corrections doesn't want it.
It's unclear if Ponte would seriously negotiate to purchase the diner.