After over a year of vacancy, the former Bayside Bakery spot has found a new owner.
Pearl Street Diner, a Burlington eatery known for its comfort food, is closing shop and moving to West Lakeshore Drive to greet Colchester as Malletts Bay Diner in early April.
“I wanted someone with experience that could offer good breakfast, good lunch at a reasonable price — like a diner food,” said Sen. Dick Mazza, the building’s owner.
Pearl Street Diner owner Pam Scanlon said Mazza came to scope out her diner’s food and atmosphere multiple times to get a feel for her business. After a couple enjoyable breakfast and lunch experiences, he decided Scanlon is the perfect fit.
“We went out and met with [Mazza] a couple times to look at the place and could picture it as being home,” Scanlon said of the Colchester shopping plaza, across from Mazza’s general store.
The spot will be open from around 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Sundays, too, unlike the former Bayside Bakery, Scanlon noted.
Kathi O’Reilly, Colchester’s director of economic development, said the new diner will attract more people to town and help boost the surrounding businesses, creating a domino effect in the area.
As Scanlon and her employees — many of whom are following her in the move — prepare for the transition, they’ve begun to say goodbye to the diner family they created over the past five years. Some customers will follow, she said, but others lack the necessary transportation.
With the lease expiring, Scanlon said the new venue is an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. The change in restaurant name, she explained, goes with the territory.
“This gives you a sense of place and a neighborhood, which we still are here for the next few weeks and soon to be in [Colchester],” she said, resting on a stool at her Pearl St. location.
Saying goodbye to regular customers though, is heartbreaking, she explained. While a good chunk of her clientele are walk-ins and college students, the hardest people to say farewell to are those from the three elderly and handicapped complexes nearby.
Over the past few weeks, she’s sat down next to them in the booths to break the news. Their response almost every time, she explained, is “we’re happy for you; we’re sad for us.”
“You’re not rid of me yet!” she recalled one woman proclaiming.
Scanlon said they won’t be rid of her either: Once settled by the lake, Scanlon wants to try and organize a bus to bring her elderly friends to Malletts Bay once a month.
Friendly service such as this is why Mazza is excited to welcome Scanlon to the Colchester plaza. His cousin, Elma Morrill, and her husband, Jim, retired from Bayside Bakery over a year ago after serving the community for about 30 years.
As soon as regular diner-goers walked in the door, the Morrills would throw their order on the grill. Knowing people’s order by heart, Mazza said, is what the diner business is all about.
Scanlon knows this sentiment all too well. Though it may take some time to get to know her new customer base, she said her staff is up for the task.
“We’re gonna want to know what they want for breakfast. We’re gonna also want to ask what the kids are up to when they’re grown and gone,” Pearl Street Diner employee Michael Niederer said. “[The Morrills] did it for a generation, and now it’s our turn. And I think that it’s gonna be a very good fit.”
Niederer works at Scanlon’s second business, Radio Deli, a corner store near the diner, formerly owned by Colchester Rep. Jim Condon. When the Burlington diner closes on March 19, so will the deli.
A longtime employee, Niederer is a self-proclaimed “old man at the corner store.” He had just gotten off the phone with Elma Morrill when he sat down at a stool near Scanlon, reminiscing about the neighborhood they’ll leave behind come April.
One thing they’re excited about, though, is free parking at the Colchester location.
While Niederer joked about doing donuts in the parking lot, Scanlon noted her plans to expand the baked goods selection. The diner menu will remain the same but, she will add a larger baked goods selection including donuts, pies, cookies and cupcakes.
Around town, Scanlon said she’s received many inquiries about “Elma’s sticky buns.” Though Scanlon never tasted one, she laughingly admitted she might have to negotiate something with the diner’s former owner.
As Scanlon builds her bakery arsenal, she’ll discontinue her BYOB, or bring your own beer, option offered at Pearl Street.
The Winooski native plans to keep the West Lakeshore spot as family oriented as possible, she said — a mentality Mazza sought in the past year while interviewing over 30 candidates.
Keys in her possession, Scanlon started to make some changes to the Colchester location but said the eatery would largely remain the same.
Over the past few weeks, Scanlon has received a warm welcome from the Colchester community. One nearby business owner even enveloped her in a hug when she told him the news.
Gratitude from the nearby auto shop workers and an exuberant “Yes!” from a fellow Costco shopper are among the memorable responses she’s gotten from locals.
Scanlon plans to create a diner community in Colchester the only way she knows how: “By doing the same thing we’ve been doing for years,” she said. “You get to know people.”