New owners of Country Girl Diner fulfill lifelong dream

By Stephen Seitz and
Cynthia Prairie

© 2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Country Girl Diner in Chester may have changed hands, but the new owners are assuring their customers that further changes will be incremental and, then, only for the better.

Jessica Holmes puts her apple pie o the counter of the Country Girl Diner, which she bought with Paul Frasca recently. Click photo to enlarge. Photo by Stephen Seitz.

Jess Holmes and Paul Frasca, who have been managing and cooking at the diner for several years, recently bought the restaurant from Thom and Kate Huntington, who in 2011 bought and refurbished the “Silk City” diner, which had been built in New Jersey around 1951 and moved from Jaffrey, N.H., in 1966.

On March 6, Kate Huntington posted on Facebook, “It is with great joy we announce that this afternoon, we officially handed the keys to The Country Girl over to our chef Paul Frasca, and his partner Jessica Holmes!” Huntington posted that she and her husband were moving back to Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

In a recent interview, Frasca touted his house-made meat hashes such as corned beef and pulled pork, and added happily, “I make my own barbecue sauce.” Frasca also said that his specialty French toasts have really taken off with customers. Some are stuffed with pastry cream — “not too sweet,” he promises, and one includes a fresh banana cream. And then there is the coconut-crusted French toast, which is also an obvious point of pride for Frasca.

– Businesses for sale in Chester. See below –

Frasca said owning the diner had been a lifelong dream. “We talked about it for years,” he said. “Thom and Kate didn’t even advertise it. They came directly to us.”

Frasca and Holmes have well-established cooking chops. Frasca graduated from New Hampshire College Culinary Institute more than 30 years ago before heading out to work for “a lot of really talented people,” from the sun-baked climes of St. Thomas to shores of Lake George and the slopes of Okemo.  Holmes is a self-taught baker who “created a good following at the GreenLeaf Cafe,” just down the street at 103 Artisans Gallery, Frasca said.

On a recent visit to the diner, retired photographer and Country Girl regular Rich Frutchey said he loves the apple pie. “I had five slices a couple of weeks back,” he said. “Jess makes a very special pie.”

“Rich is having me enter it in contests,”   Holmes smiled.

“They have the best waitresses,” added Frutchey.

Frasca agrees. “We have the best staff. The girls are wonderful,” he said referring to his 12 employees. Frasca adds that one of the best things about his new venture  is “I get to work with my family. My son (22-year-old Zachary) has been here for four years — as long as I have. He can run the place now. He cooks. He is my second-in-command. Zachary, Jess and me. We do it all.”

“One of the best things about the diner is I get to work with my family. My son (22-year-old Zachary) has been here for four years — as long as I have. He can run the place now. He cooks. He is my second-in-command. Zachary, Jess and me. We do it all.”

Paul Frasca
Co-owner
Country Girl Diner

When not at work, the couple, who live within walking distance of the diner, still love being in the kitchen. “Jess makes all kinds of great things,” Frasca said, recalling fondly a curried chicken with rice. He added, “And last night I grilled steaks and made salad. The one who doesn’t cook does the dishes.  I don’t mind going home and cooking for everybody. I never get sick of it.”

Frasca said that even though he has never owned a business, “I don’t really see that it will be hard. It’s a turnkey operation. We don’t have to do anything different. We already have a local following. We just have to make it better, tweak it a bit here and there.”

Holmes said they have some ideas for down the road, but “there won’t be many changes. … Most of our customers are regulars. We see some people once or twice a day.” Frasca said he expects to get into some off-premises catering, with Holmes creating wedding and other specialty cakes. They also plan to open for Friday night dinners (5 to 8 p.m. starting on Memorial Day weekend) with dishes such as prime rib, pot roast, fish and chips and clam rolls. Frasca emphasizes that he makes his own bread, salad dressings and desserts. And they hope to add an ice cream window and a snack bar.

The Country Girl Diner, 46 VT Route 103, is opened seven days a week.   Diner hours are 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, which features an all-day breakfast, except for Christmas and Thanksgiving day. “Always here, with a smile,” says Frasca.

A sampling of commercial real estate for sale in Chester:

  • The Free Range Restaurant, opened by Rick and Anne Paterno in August of 2014. They are asking $625,000 for the restaurant and its building, which includes a third floor apartment. The restaurant is located at 90 The Common.
  • 103 Artisans Marketplace, built by artist-owners and Chester residents Elise and Payne Junker in 2007. The iconic barn-style building is on the market for $425,000. It’s located at 7 Pine View Drive at Route 103 South.
  • The former VTica building, 15 Depot St., has a gallery with two bathrooms downstairs and two apartments upstairs. The price has just been dropped by $30,000 to $395,000.
  • The former Chester Pharmacy building at 26 The Common is available for $299,900. It has retail on the first floor, apartments above and a two car garage.
  • The building that houses Mountain Leather Design and a two bedroom apartment with an enclosed porch on the second floor at 94 The Common is for sale for $220,000.
  • The building at the corner of School St. and the Common, that houses Vintage Vermont, eClipz Salon and Made to Move Pilates and two one bedroom apartments is on the market for $289,500.
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Filed Under: Business & Personal FinanceChesterFeaturedLatest News

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, having worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Barre Pinske says:

    On the order of businesses for sale we probably should include the Fullerton Inn and the former Zachary’s Pizza building. I have been in Chester for nine years and there are homes on Depot Street that were for sale when I bought that are still on the market. The old hardware store on the RR tracks is available also.

    We have the same issues as many rural areas. The cost of doing business as a start up exceeds the potential income. A commercial building mortgage requires a 20% down payment. Property taxes add to costs and are fairly high relative to potential income. Add employment taxes, workmans comp. insurance and the bookkeeping involved to maintain records which requires time and skill or another hire. I’m glad we are still holding our own. For the most part down town Claremont, for example, is a ghost town.

    The “Old Days” of bigger extended families where you can bring in kids or cousins for busy times at family run restaurant are gone. Maintaining help in slow times and having good help when you are busy is a challenge here. With less manufacturing jobs, an aging community and a growing number of porch sitters we don’t have enough money changing hands quickly enough to sustain costs.

    With out tourism we would be in rougher shape. As a professional artist for 30 years I know first hand the struggle to maintain cash flow is the biggest issue for a small business. We have seen examples such as VTica where money is poured in to a point that even fairly wealthy people are unwilling to continue the financial drain. You cannot buy your way to success in business. More money has to come in than is going out.

    I like the culture of the Diner it’s where I have made friendships in town and feel part of the community. I wish the new owners much luck they are very nice and are doing a great job.

    When Kate and Thom took over they made the prices more tourist based than local based in my opinion. We have a 9% meals tax here in VT so your $2 cup of coffee is $2.18. I feel this is tough on locals. I tip 15-20% so tax and tip is around 25% over the meal cost. The bill for my favorite choice, a single blue berry pancake with coffee, ends up slightly over $11. That’s correct, $11 for a pancake and coffee. $7 pancake with $2 coffee is $9 plus 25%. $2.25 that’s $11.25. I can’t imaging taking kids out for breakfast. You are going to drop $40 minimum.

    Now that I’m wound up I might as well include I’m paying in part for my pancake their property taxes, employment taxes and workmans comp. I paid taxes on the gas to drive there, had to pay to taxes when I bought my car, pay to have it licensed, registered and inspected. It all cost’s money! I pay taxes on my phone bill, cable bill and electric bill. Those bills are enough with out the extra taxes! People on the dole are getting paid for with taxes and they get taxed too! That’s tax money going to taxes! Now you know the content of most of the diner conversations. It’s a great way to start the day!

  2. Rock on Paul. What a diner, what a place to see Chester. For 25 years the diner means everything for us as a family. Letting our kid’s drive down once they were able to drive, going out for a late breakfast with my wife, enjoying the food and always happy with the best service. Such a wide menu offering. You have so many mouth watering choices.

  3. Billy D says:

    Hi,

    I remember sitting in my dad’s new truck (1967) when they set up the trailer portion of the restaurant on a foundation. The Silver City Diner came from CT on a truck. Later on, I spent many days washing dishes and cooking breakfast on the front grill. It was my grandparents that built the restaurant. Good luck in your new venture.

  4. Bruce Frauman says:

    Thank you for the detailed and lively article. I ate dinners at the diner when my job took me through Chester many years ago. I am glad to know it is still open, even if not for dinner anymore. Best wishes to the new owners! PS My favorite was the Raspberry Custard.

  5. Liz macadie says:

    My husband and I love Country Girl Diner. But when he goes alone, he can’t sit at a booth even if he offers to share the booth. His back is not comfortable at the counter. Please share that that policy discriminates against my 6’2″ guy. Thanks. Can’t wait to get back there.

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