New Diner Nearly Ready At Old ‘Tin Man’ Site
By: Alex Scofield
Nearly a decade ago, Claire Bergeron was victimized by an arsonist who burned down the diner she owned by the Otis Rotary. Since then, she has felt personally obligated to bring a successor to the spot.
“I kind of felt responsible,” Ms. Bergeron told selectmen on Tuesday. “I felt it happened on my watch. I made a promise that I would return a landmark to Bourne, and return a jewel to its crown.”
Just weeks shy of the fire’s 10-year anniversary, Ms. Bergeron and Donald A. Cox Jr. are clearing the final hurdles toward opening a new restaurant called the Patriot Diner on the site.
It will culminate a seven-year effort for Ms. Bergeron to return a historically authentic diner to the Pocasset spot. No opening date is set, but Mr. Cox, who will lease the site and manage the Patriot Diner, said it is “coming soon.”
“We’re completing a very long journey,” Mr. Cox said to selectmen on Tuesday.
On the exterior, the steel is shining on the vintage 1940s dining car that Ms. Bergeron brought to the site more than six years ago. Inside, contractors and future employees worked in tandem installing tables, stools, and kitchen equipment.
Meanwhile, Mr. Cox’s wife, Lindsay J. Hopkins, is giving the interior an facelift. The wallpaper from the dining car’s previous life in Connecticut had to go.
“That wasn’t going to do it for me,” Ms. Hopkins said. “I had to tear it all down.”
Ms. Hopkins, a decorative painter from West Barnstable, is painting murals on the diner walls. She said she embraced the “patriot” theme her husband chose, while making sure that the scenery she painted was inclusive. “I wanted it for everybody, so that’s when I jumped in,” said Ms. Hopkins. By mid-week, Ms. Hopkins had painted murals of seascapes, beachscapes, Coast Guard ships, military helicopters, and a sign posting the mileage to places like Fenway Park, Kandahar, Nantucket, and Baghdad. “There’s a little bit of everybody—people that live here, people that are coming here, and people from the base.”
Soldiers from Camp Edwards formed a major part of the clientele for the diner that Ms. Bergeron bought in the early 1960s. She ran the diner until 1989, when she began leasing it to Barbara Lind. Under Ms. Lind, the spot was called My Tin Man Diner. On November 24, 2000, the diner was set on fire. William R. Taylor of Bourne, whose estranged wife worked at the diner, pleaded guilty to arson and was sentenced to a five-year federal prison term in 2002.
Soon after Mr. Taylor was sentenced, Ms. Bergeron, a Wareham resident, began efforts to bring a diner back to the site. She received approval from the Bourne Planning Board in November 2003 to open a new restaurant there. Despite the fire damage, there remained some historic interest in the burned-out car that had housed the My Tin Man Diner. A double-ended Sterling Streamliner, the car was the only one of its type in the world, Ms. Bergeron said in 2004. She paid $13,100 to have it moved, and it eventually landed in Westport, on the property of the Handy Hill Creamery.
Ms. Bergeron replaced the old diner with a vintage 1940s dining car from East Hampton, Connecticut, and she had it shipped to the site just off the Otis Rotary for $34,000. At the time, a septic system, windows, an electrical system, walls, and a ceiling needed to be installed before the diner could open. For six years, the dining car sat idle by the rotary.
Ms. Lind, who operated the My Tin Man Diner through its last decade, opened the Tin Man Diner in North Falmouth in 2008.
Half a year ago, Ms. Bergeron met Mr. Cox, an experienced restaurant and food service operator. The two agreed to go forward and complete the renovation project that began seven years ago, Mr. Cox told selectmen on Tuesday. Even from that point, Mr. Cox said, contractors “delayed us, and delayed us, and delayed us and delayed us.”
In recent weeks, though, the pieces have begun falling into place. Bill P. Pitzner, who will manage the kitchen at the Patriot Diner, joked that he is doing double-duty as a lumberjack. He has spent recent weeks installing equipment in the kitchen where he will soon work. Passersby are curious. “We’ve had a lot of people come in and ask about it,” Mr. Pitzner said.
Selectmen on Tuesday unanimously voted to grant a victualer’s license to Mr. Cox, pending the results of forthcoming fire and health inspections of the diner. Selectmen congratulated Mr. Cox and Ms. Bergeron. After a decade of setbacks, Ms. Bergeron expressed confidence that a diner was coming back at last.
“I fulfilled my promise I made in 2003 when I appeared before the Bourne Planning Board,” Ms. Bergeron said. “It’s finally happening, and I feel good that I was able to fulfill my promise.”