Kathy’s Diner closes; new operator for restaurant sought

Last modified: Saturday, July 20, 2013

NORTHAMPTON — This summer will be the first in “umpteen many years” that Kathy Tefft will be able to take some time off.

Tefft, 73, said Thursday that she has sold Kathy’s Diner on Strong Avenue and it will be closed until a new manager takes over.

Tefft said she and buyer Gary Perman, who also owns the building that houses Jake’s Restaurant on King Street and several other building downtown, have been talking about the sale for about a month. It became final Wednesday afternoon.

The distinctive red trailer-style diner has been a mainstay of downtown for decades and has been a part of Tefft’s life for almost as long.

She worked at the diner in 1956 when she was 16 years old and it was known as the Miss Northampton Diner.

She returned in 1985, when it was known as the Red Lion Diner. She purchased and renamed it in 1989, and she has been there ever since.

“I’m lucky if I get two days off (a week),” she said.

She said in the “24 years and three months” she’s been running the diner she’s met “the nicest people you could possibly meet.”

Tefft said she was the diner’s only full-time employee and ran the restaurant with help of about five part-time staff, all of whom will be invited to stay on when the restaurant reopens.

Perman, 55, and his wife, Carol, of Westhampton, purchased the building, an actual dining car, for $250,000, he said.

Perman said they will maintain ownership of the building but will lease it out to an appropriate restaurateur who wants to run the diner.

He said he enjoys being a landlord but has no aspirations to run a restaurant.

“I can’t cook,” Perman said.

In the meantime, Perman said he hopes to be able to refurbish the diner and may eventually find a way to take advantage of the building’s proximity to the bike path and provide a dining area alongside it.

“It’s a great location,” Perman said. “There are very few restaurants on the bike path.”

Perman said there is a tentative date of July 1 to reopen, but that will depend when a new restaurant manager steps in.

Vanessa Gunter of Northampton, 52, a frequent patron, said Tefft’s decision to retire is long overdue.

“She deserves it,” Gunter said. “She should have retired a few years ago.”

Gunter said she’ll probably remain a regular at the diner after it reopens, especially if whoever is in charge of the food can live up to the example Tefft set.

“If it’s breakfast as good as she made or better, I’ll go. Why not?” she said.

Another regular, Bryan Guyette of Northampton, biked through the rain from his King Street home to the diner Thursday afternoon only to find a handwritten note in the window informing patrons that the diner had been sold and will reopen “about” July 1.

Guyette said he appreciated Kathy’s traditional diner ambience and menu.

“Kathy’s is cool,” he said. “I like diners with diner food.”

He, too, said he can understand why Tefft would feel the need to step down from the business.

“She’s here every single day,” he said.

Tefft said she plans on using her newfound time off to travel and visit family, including attending a granddaughter’s wedding in Colorado and visiting her daughter in Georgia.

She said she plans on returning from her travels sometime in the fall and may go back to working part time, perhaps even back at the diner.

“It’s home,” she said.

Bob Dunn can be reached at bdunn@gazettenet.com.


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