PEABODY — At 7 a.m. yesterday, an emotional farewell took place at The Little Depot Diner on Railroad Avenue.
The seven or eight regulars who file in day after day right at opening had their last breakfast in the family-owned, 1929 Worcester Lunch Car diner near Peabody Square. The diner is now closed, owners Jim and Judy Miles announced, reluctantly.
Upon hearing the news, the regular 7 a.m. crowd gave the Mileses a round of applause.
"We've had a lot of fun here," Jim Miles said later that day, as he pulled the cord that toots the horn on a toy train that circles atop the perimeter of the single-counter diner. "This was a fantastic experience, and we're going to miss it very much."
The diner was a labor of love for the whole Miles family. Judy ran the diner, buying supplies, waiting tables and keeping the books; Jen, their daughter, worked every Saturday; John, their son, helped out whenever he could waiting tables, cooking and bantering with patrons; while Jim, a full-time general manager at a contract manufacturing firm, worked mornings and weekends.
"We needed each other in order for the place to run," said Jen, a schoolteacher in Lynn.
Although the little diner has only 13 counter seats, it proved to be "a lot more work than we planned," Jim said. "It's really a two-person operation to run it properly, and I have a full-time job outside of this, so it put a lot of burden on my wife. We just felt it was time to let someone else take over."
He's hoping new owners can be found.
The diner has been occupying the same patch of land at 1 Railroad Ave. since 1950. It's had several names — Kurly's Diner, Holly's Diner and others — and several owners over the years. Before 1950, the diner was actually on wheels; a truck pulled it around to the various tanneries in the city to feed workers on their lunch break, Jim said.