The origin of Maine Diner starts with Socrates “Louie” Toton. Louie had owned a diner in Boston and started Maine Diner as a “retirement” diner in the early 1940’s. Louie, however, despised tourists so he would only open in the winter, once the tourists had gone home. His idea of retirement was gardening and he bought the land in which the diner sits so he could cultivate the fine soil on the property into the one acre garden that still thrives today. There are pictures on our walls (circa late 50’s) that show the farm stand that used to be in the northernmost corner of our lot, just off of Route One. That farm stand sold the fruits and vegetables that Louie grew all summer long.
Louie had the first part of the diner built right next to his house so his morning commute was very short. He called it Maine Restaurant. Although the name was different, it had a fantastic “diner” feel with the open window concept for the food to pass from the kitchen to the servers. It had a long counter with 12 seats, 6 booths, and a handful of tables. He had one waitress, Millie, who was lauded for her ability to never write an order down and always be accurate.
In the winter of 1983, Myles and Dick Henry purchased the diner with the organizational help of their father Claude. They changed the name to Maine Diner because of the magical feel and aura of the open window concept when passing food from the kitchen. They tidied the place up and opened their doors on February 23, 1983 and happened upon their first customer by accident. Literally by accident! Their first customer drove his car into a pole near our parking lot! Apparently he had mistaken the diner for a certain bar and zigged when he should have zagged. He came in and had a meal with his coffee.
That first day, 42 customers walked in the door and the total receipts were $42. The next day, one hundred customers came in. and everything started growing. Today we do 1300 – 1400 customers on a typical day in July and August. We are not like Louie. We enjoy the tourists that come to our area as much as we appreciate the locals that dine with us all year long. We have served over 8 million customers since 1983 and we look forward to serving 8 million more.
The third and current owner of the Maine Diner is Jim MacNeill. Jim is a resident of Wells and was a long time friend of Myles and Dick Henry. Jim moved up the ranks in the restaurant industry from pot scrubber to server to bar manager to General Manager. It was Myles who approached Jimmy and asked him to be the GM of the Maine Diner. He held that position for 14 years until he purchased the Diner in 2018. Myles passed away in 2010 and Dick remained sole owner with Jim as his GM. In 2018, Dick turned 70 and decided it was time to retire. He and Jim were like minded in that they wanted the Diner to remain the same, so Dick offered Jimmy first refusal to purchase it.
The Maine Diner is an iconic institution. It has been featured on NBC’s The Today Show, WBZ’s Phantom Gourmet, and The Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. But it’s also a little Diner in Wells, Maine, and we have high standards and values. Here’s what we can pretty much guarantee:
We will continue to operate the garden as we measure our freshness in minutes rather than days.
We will continue to treat our customers as if they were guests in our own homes.
We will continue to provide the cleanest environment possible at all times.
We will remain fun and friendly, regardless of any external pressures.
You deserve the best home-cooked food, in a clean and friendly environment.
We are conveniently located on Route 1 North in Wells, halfway between the Wells and Kennebunk exit on I-95. We open daily at 7 am and our closing time changes depending on the season.