By Bailey Morrison
A fire in the Old Path Village plaza destroyed J&M Diner, and nine other businesses on Saturday, March 11.
The family-owned business was a popular spot for locals and Framingham State students. Karen Fiore, owner of J&M diner, said the restaurant often saw the same customers weekly and even the day of the fire customers showed up to show the family support.
J&M Diner featured waiters serving in their pajamas and was on Phantom Gourmet for their famous eggs benedict. The diner opened every day, except for Christmas Day, at 5:30 a.m.
The Framingham community rallied around the Fiores when news of the fire first broke. A GoFundMe started by another local business, Pennant CrossFit, has exceeded its fundraising goal of $5,000 and has raised $20,590 to date.
Pennant CrossFit owner Dan Rogan started the GoFundMe for the Fiore family. The family are members at the gym. He said, “The entire Fiore family, and many of the J&M Diner employees, are members at Pennant CrossFit. They have always been highly supportive of us and heavily involved in our community.”
He added, “When we heard about the fire, the first thing that came to mind was, ‘What can we do?’ We knew that there would be plenty of people who would want to donate and show their love and support for the Fiores and the rest of the J&M staff, and we felt that having a GoFundMe page was a good place to start.”
A fundraiser was held on Saturday, March 18 at Pennant CrossFit and the proceeds were added to the GoFundMe. Rogan said, “We are very fortunate to have a passionate group of members and employees at Pennant – so many pitched in to help.”
Framingham residents have been involved in fundraising for the business as well. One GoFundMe was started by a fan of the local spot – Tim Mangano, a Framingham resident and senior FSU student.
The page has raised $583. He said, “I just genuinely felt really bad for them. They are such nice people in there and it was always packed, so I know there are a lot of people that are saddened to hear about the fire.”
Karen Fiore said the fire began in one of the hair salons in the plaza but the investigation into the fire is still underway. “We’re the ones that got the most. We’re the last to go. ... Some sort of 20-minute wind gust blew [the fire] everywhere.”
Dave Fiore, owner of J&M Diner, said because the investigation is active, the family has “not seen a dime” in insurance money.
Karen Fiore said the family is “terrified” to spend money because all their income came from the diner and they are unsure when they will be working again.
The business was opened by Karen and David Fiore over 20 years ago and has maintained a quaint Mom and Pop atmosphere. J&M is run by the Fiores and their daughters.
According to the J&M Diner Facebook page, the business is “determined to find a new home,” due to the fact none of the businesses in Old Path Village Plaza will be returning to the space and there are currently no plans to rebuild the complex.
Karen Fiore said, “It’s a very scary time for us. ... We have kids who work in the diner to put themselves through college. ... But the support has been unbelievable.”
She added the family has been on the search for a new location for the diner but must consider all the options before picking a new site on which to rebuild. “We never thought we’d be starting over at this time.”
Karen Fiore said although her immediate family no longer lives in the area, she feels supported by the people around her because they are like her family. She said people have been sharing memories and pictures on the J&M Diner Facebook page of meals they shared at the diner.
Olivia Spadafore, FSU senior and former waitress at J&M Diner, said, “Everyone who works there does their job better than anyone I know and they do it with a smile on their face. Everyone I worked with there I never get tired of seeing.”
She said she was in complete shock when she heard about the fire. “It’s one of the more famous places in Framingham and for a good reason. And when you know the whole family and how wonderful everyone is there, it’s the worst feeling to have to watch them lose all of it.”
Karen Fiore said, “There is a rally of the people around us – we don’t want to disappoint. We want to rebuild. Don’t forget about us.”