Route 9 Diner to reopen under new ownership

By Shelby Ashline

Photo by Cade Belisle/Collegian
(Cade Belisle/Collegian)

UPDATE (10 a.m.): Restaurateur Andy Yee announced Thursday that he has purchased the former Route 9 Diner in Hadley with plans to reopen in November as Johnny’s Roadside Diner.

Yee, whose family owns and manages an additional seven restaurants including Johnny’s Tavern in Amherst, said the new diner will serve classic American comfort food. It will serve breakfast all day in traditional diner fashion.

“Being familiar with the UMass and overall Five College market, when we were contacted by various sources to look into this property, we were excited to add it to our portfolio,” Yee said in a phone interview. “We always longed for a breakfast concept.”

Johnny’s Roadside Diner will be entirely unique from the Yee family’s other businesses which satisfy a variety of palates, serving everything from Asian cuisine and sushi to German cuisine.

The projected November 1 opening of Johnny’s Roadside Diner will follow significant renovations. Yee anticipates spending $150,000 to remodel the building on top of the initial $800,000 purchase price.

“We’re going to bring out the charm of a classic American diner,” Yee said. He intends to give the diner a welcoming, inviting theme in hopes that it will be an early-morning meeting place.

Yee bought the property from Kullman Corp. of New Jersey, who had rented to former owners Christopher Karabetsos and Argiris Sideri of Belchertown. Route 9 Diner closed back in March following a discrimination complaint filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy which alleged of sexual harassment in the workplace.

The property transaction will officially be filed next week at the Hampshire County Registry of Deeds, Yee told MassLive. Yee said he currently has design teams finalizing work on what the diner will look like, after which he will submit a building permit to commence renovations.

Yee’s son Matthew Yee will serve as the diner’s general manager, continuing on a more than 50-year family tradition. Yee’s father Johnny Yee – to whom the Johnny names refer – was known for owning the Hu Ke Lau in Chicopee.

“All of my family members were born into the business,” Yee said. “We joke that we all have fryolator oil flowing through our veins.”

In addition, Yee said that he expects to hire a “very well-qualified” executive chef from New York City and an anticipated 40 to 50 employees. He, his son and the chef will be working together to design a menu.

“We’re going to start off with a modern, American menu that everyone is familiar with,” Yee said.

Yee expects that the diner will probably be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on week days and from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends. However, he said these hours could be changed later if necessary to accommodate late night customers.

“I understand that traditional diners in the old days were open 24 hours,” Yee said. “Though we’re not really familiar with operating in the late hour, we will monitor our business and make adjustments accordingly if the demand is there.”

Shelby Ashline can be reached at [email protected]