Southwick native takes over Miss Florence Diner

  • Georgianna Brunton, the new owner of Miss Florence Diner. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Georgianna Brunton, the new owner of Miss Florence Diner. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Georgianna Brunton, the new owner of Miss Florence Diner, stands outside the landmark diner Monday. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Georgianna Brunton, the new owner of Miss Florence Diner, sits at the diner counter Monday. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

NORTHAMPTON — When Georgianna Brunton first saw on Facebook that the Miss Florence Diner was for sale she knew she wanted it, but didn’t think purchasing it would be possible.

However, after she saw for the third time that the Florence culinary institution was for sale, she decided to reach out.

Conversations about buying the diner started in the fall, and since April 30, Brunton has been Miss Flo’s sole owner.

“I’m doing this by myself,” said Brunton, who noted that she has no business partners. “It’s a lot of work.”

Still, don’t expect any huge changes to be coming down the pike for the historic eatery.

“We’re not taking anything away,” said Brunton, speaking of Miss Flo’s menu.

She also said that the same people are working at Miss Flo’s under her ownership.

“The staff is still the staff,” she said. “They’re still here.”

Brunton, 46, grew up in Southwick, and although she said she was familiar with Northampton, the same was not true for Florence. Indeed, she said she hadn’t been to the Miss Florence Diner until she was considering buying it. That said, Brunton acknowledged the significance of the 77-year-old institution.

“There’s a great history here,” she said.

The diner was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1999.

Brunton purchased the Miss Florence Diner from the Zantouliadis family, who have owned it since 2003. John Zantouliadis has managed the diner for most of that period and, as part of the sale, he agreed to consult with Brunton free of charge for 30 days.

Brunton described Zantouliadis as a “wonderful mentor.” She also acknowledged the good reputation that was built up by Zantouliadis.

“It was big shoes to fill,” she said.

In an August 2017 Gazette article, Zantouliadis said he was no longer able to do everything that needed to be done at the diner. He also said that the business was doing well and that he hadn’t expected the outpouring of reactions on Facebook that the announcement of the sale of the business had generated. It was listed for sale for $199,000.

Although Brunton had her first restaurant job when she was 13, Miss Flo’s is the first diner she’s worked in. When she first started talking about purchasing the diner, she was the sales manager at the Common Man restaurant in Claremont, New Hampshire. When she knew she would purchase the diner, she left her job there and took a job at Epic, a restaurant at the Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, Vermont, to get re-energized by working in the trenches of a kitchen.

Brunton has been living in Florence with her two sons, 27 and 16 respectively, since March. And while she said the people of Florence have been generally welcoming, they’ve also not been hesitant to give their opinions about the business, which she noted has a very loyal fan base.

“Everyone is very happy to give me their thoughts and advice,” she said.

She also praised Florence as a “great small-town community.”

Brunton’s 16-year-old son, Cameron Johnson, is attending Northampton High School and working at the diner, although he chose not to comment for this story.

Since Brunton took possession, new painting and landscaping has been done at Miss Flo’s. Brunton has also had the bathrooms redone. And while she may not be taking anything off the menu, she did say she plans to add some new stuff, including local beef and Miss Florence Diner label sodas.

“Those should be here in a couple weeks,” she said.

Perhaps the biggest potential development is that Brunton is looking into starting dinner service at the diner come the fall, which she said was the biggest thing that has been suggested to her. She said such a service would run Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Additionally, Brunton said that a 10 percent senior discount is being offered to people 65 and over every Monday.

Brunton also said that she intended to make running the Miss Florence Diner her final job.

“I hope so,” she said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.