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Rutland's Midway Diner Says Goodbye

A 65-year chapter in Rutland’s history will end on Sunday, when the Midway Diner serves its last burgers, omelets and fries.

The much-loved local eatery on Route Seven will be replaced by an International House of Pancakes.

John Valente the Midway Diner’s co-owner, stood outside the restaurant Thursday. He shouted out a greeting to his old friend Bud Creed.

“Hey Bud!” He said. “Bud, how you been?”

“Pretty Good!” Creed answered. “I came down to get my last Western.”

“I’m going to miss you,” Valente called after him.

Creed, who is eighty-six, has been a regular at the Midway since it opened under its original owner in 1947. 

Ever since the announcement Monday that the Midway is about to close, he and other longtime, loyal customers have packed the diner.

Valente has greeted them all as if they were family. He’s been explaining to his customers that he isn’t well.

“I’m going to be seventy years old in January,” he says, “And my health isn’t that good. It’s time to hang it up.”

He spots another old friend, Lucy Bartlett.

“How are you, honey?” Bartlett asks him.

“I’m good, sweetheart,” Valente says.

Valente gives Bartlett a hug. He’s known her since he came to Rutland from Italy in 1958. He was  fourteen.

Valente started working at the diner as a dishwasher in the 1960s.  His uncle owned it then.  

He became a partner in the business with his cousin, Frank Trombetta Jr., in 1988. In the 1990’s the original chrome diner had to be abandoned and the current building was built.

Until five or six years ago, the Midway was open round the clock seven days a week.

“And it was fun because the bars used to close at midnight,” Valente said. “And there was a line from here to the road for people coming in to get breakfast, you know.”

The diner also drew a big lunchtime crowd. Valente recalls setting out lunches early for workers at Rutland’s Howe Scale Company.

“They used to have half an hour to eat their lunch and go back to work,” he recalls. “So we had to have everything prepped.”

Retirees Tom and Verna Navin still come for the New England Boiled Dinner.

“Ah listen, this is an institution,” Tom Navin said Thursday. “We’re going to miss it big time.”

Inside the diner, waitresses deliver orders and chat with customers. Several have worked here for decades.

Longtime patrons Suzanne Colby and Judy Bullis sat in a booth. The reminisced about coming here for burgers after getting off the night shift at the Brandon Training School.

“It always has a special place in out heart,” Bullis said. “It’s always been a part of Rutland. It’s great eating and the waitresses are wonderful.”

John Valente hopes his customers will give the new International House of Pancakes a chance.

Some of the customers here say they’ll do that.  But it won’t be the Midway.

Susan Keese was VPR's southern Vermont reporter, based at the VPR studio in Manchester at Burr & Burton Academy. After many years as a print journalist and magazine writer, Susan started producing stories for VPR in 2002. From 2007-2009, she worked as a producer, helping to launch the noontime show Vermont Edition. Susan has won numerous journalism awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for her reporting on VPR. She wrote a column for the Sunday Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. Her work has appeared in Vermont Life, the Boston Globe Magazine, The New York Times and other publications, as well as on NPR.
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