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Well-traveled diner off and running

Busy opening weeks have come with lots of fanfare, handful of challenges

  • The Hometown Diner in Rindge opened on Oct. 3.
  • The Hometown Diner in Rindge opened on Oct. 3.
  • The Hometown Diner in Rindge opened on Oct. 3.

If you’ve driven through the intersection of Routes 119 and 202 during the last few Saturday mornings, chances are that you’ve seen the out-the-door line of people at the Hometown Diner. The historic diner that was moved from Ohio to its current location this summer has sparked plenty of curiosity, and it has whet the appetite of those hungering for another local food option.

While the opening weekends have brought in a flood of customers, the first weeks have also posed some challenges for the new operation.

“The weekends are just amazing,” said owner and Rindge resident Bonnie Rosengrant in an interview on Tuesday. “We’re so grateful for everyone that comes through that door.”

The new diner opened on Oct. 3, serving food between 5:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. every day except Tuesday. Members of a 15-person staff arrive at 4:30 a.m. each morning to put homefries on the grill and to get ready for the breakfast rush. Lunch options are also offered later in the day, and all of the diner’s food is made from scratch. The restaurant sells other items like t-shirts, hats, mugs, and beverage koozies, too.

Rosengrant, who has worked in food service for the past 35 years and has previously owned a restaurant and catering business, is at the diner each day, from open until close. With regulars coming in each morning, including some Franklin Pierce students who visit “religiously,” work becomes play for Rosengrant. “We have a lot of fun with our customers,” she said. “We love what we do.”

For the moment, the diner is trying to make breakfast available all day, something Rosengrant said was successful on Monday. Blue plate specials will soon be offered, and Rosengrant would like the diner to be open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday in the spring. “We wanted to get six months under our belt, open six days a week,” Rosengrant said, who is working to sort out any issues the diner currently has before putting more on everyone’s plates.

Rosengrant spoke about some of the challenges of opening the diner, including the first day, when the diner served breakfast all day to a high volume of customers in a building that can hold fewer than 50 people. “That was extremely challenging. We managed to pull it off, but a lot of people had to wait,” Rosengrant said. Saturdays are similarly demanding, though Rosengrant is working to find ways to ease the wait. “I’m thinking of having a coffee service for customers while they wait outside,” said Rosengrant.

Other difficulties, like learning the equipment that came with the diner building, will take some time to figure out. In response to complaints from Rindge residents, Rosengrant wants people to know: “I appreciate everyone’s constructive criticism. There are just a lot of little kinks to work out.”

Though Rosengrant is experiencing difficulties that come along with any new business, she has also received support and plenty of positive feedback in the last three weeks. “I’ve had customers come up and thank us for opening such a good quality restaurant,” Rosengrant said. Other visitors, such as a group of people who travel around the country to eat only in diners, have told Rosengrant she is doing everything right, making good food and attracting enough customers to have a line out the door.

Rosengrant has many plans, including putting table service on the outside patio, barbecues, car shows, and events. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, for instance, will be selling poppies at the diner on Nov. 11, Veteran’s Day. Rosengrant will also be working with FPU to get a shuttle bus to the diner. Come winter and rougher weather, Rosengrant wants the diner to be open during storms in order to serve utility and town workers. “We’ll be here to serve them at whatever time is needed,” she said.

Rosengrant is also finding ways to allow the diner’s menu to reflect what local food is in season in order to better work with local vendors. The diner already uses products from Tracie’s Community Farm in Fitzwilliam and Sawyer’s Maple Farm in New Ipswich, and soon it will be buying honey from New Hampshire Honey Bee in Gilsum, according to Rosengrant.

All of Rosengrant’s visions for the Hometown Diner are her efforts to be involved locally. “We’re wanting to work with the community,” Rosengrant said.

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