St. Stephen landmark celebrates 60 years

(Robert Fisher photo) Co-owner Susie Hossack stands beside a recently acquired Carman’s Diner neon side inside the restaurant. She owns the business with her brother and sister, after their family constructed it 60 years ago.

ST. STEPHEN – A family-owned business celebrated six decades of operation earlier this year.

The founder’s children, including Susie Hossack, have continued operating Carman’s Diner, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in January.

Looking little different from when it opened, Carman’s harkens back to a simpler time.

“Carman was my grandfather, my father’s father,” said Hossack. Another diner had been on the location previously and Carman was a partner in that business. It burned down and they constructed Carman’s in its place.

“Essentially it’s all the same,” said Hossack.

A back room has been added for larger groups and there has been some renovation of the counter to shorten it. Otherwise, walking into Carman’s is like walking into a scene from Happy Days.

The banquettes have been reupholstered but otherwise are the same.

“We’ve reupholstered them many times,” she said. The last time the banquettes were reupholstered, they pulled out some of the original horsehair stuffing that was still inside.

The tables are the same as when the diner opened. There are even quarter-a-song mini-jukeboxes on the tables. Like much of the rest of the place, the menu is largely the same as it was when Carman’s opened its doors.

Robert Fisher photo Quarter-a-song tabletop jukeboxes are still on most of the tables at Carman’s Diner in St. Stephen, 60 years after it opened.

“We’ve added a few, more modern, options,” said Hossack, adding they recently got a liquor license, “which was something my mother never wanted.”

Hossack runs the place with her older sister and brother. Asked how many hours they put in, Hossack laughed at the idea that running a restaurant isn’t a nine-to-five job.

“I work a lot,” she said.

Hossack is proud they still make everything in-house. They don’t buy prepared gravy mixes or pre-made stocks.

“We cook our food here. You’re not going to come in, order a burger and have it handed to you. It’s real food,” said Hossack.

Staff members tend to stay with them for many years as well. There are regular customers who have been with Carman’s for many years, too. Staff know their regulars and many get the same thing every time. Hossack says they sometimes ask if people want to try something different; most of the time they don’t.

Greg Anderson has been eating at Carman’s pretty much all his life.

“My mother and father used to bring me here when I was a kid,” he said. “Years later, my uncle and I have come pretty regularly over the last 30 years.

“A family-owned business, I like to support that more than a chain of multinational corporations. The bacon cheeseburger platter is my favourite.”

Annie Anderson, distantly related to Greg Anderson, has been eating at Carman’s for more than 50 years.

“I’ve lived around here 54 years, so I can say probably 54 years,” she said.

There are times Annie goes as many as five times a week, typically it’s more like two or three times.

“The food is great,” she said of what keeps her coming back. “They make it just the way you want it. Their hamburgers are to die for.”

She said it’s very friendly and a great place to socialize.

Of the tabletop jukeboxes, she said, “that’s my cup of tea, those old songs.”

Robert Fisher

Fisher is a writer/author, photographer and filmmaker. Itinerant observer of life. His dog, Lincoln, is a travel companion and has been coast-to-coast with him four times.