With no buyer in sight, longtime South Royalton restaurant set to close

Published: May. 17, 2023 at 6:24 PM EDT
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SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A shrinking workforce and rising inflation have taken their toll on yet another business in our region. A restaurant that has operated in South Royalton for decades is saying so long. The 108 Chelsea Station diner is about to close.

“I saw what the lady before me was doing and said, ‘Yeah, I can do that,’” Kristen Strong said.

It was 32 years ago when Kristen Strong and her husband took over the restaurant. She grew up in the area and has been cooking her whole life. But recently, after a divorce, Strong is not only the cook but the dishwasher, hostess, business manager and waitress.

“I get exhausted listening to me, too. These guys are saying, ‘Yeah, we get exhausted listening to you, too,” she said, motioning to customers in the eatery. “And you be quiet,” she called to them cheerfully.

Our interview was interrupted several times for banter with customers. Soon, the friendly conversations will be over. Strong simply can’t find the help to keep the business going. She says the pandemic and inflation didn’t help.

“It is going to be a very, very sad day,” said Raelene Lemery of Stockbridge, who operates the thrift store out back. “Most of the local people have really tried to support her by coming in and eating but it isn’t all about that. It’s about having help.”

Customers I spoke with say if you are ever in a bad mood, the 108 Chelsea Station can turn that around.

“She always kidding with the customers and joking around. Keeps things lively,” said Richard Frary, who has lived in South Royalton for his whole life. “The food’s good, too.”

“I’m going to miss a lot of people. A lot, a lot, a lot of people,” Strong said. “I don’t know how I am going to do it.”

As for what’s next on the menu, that’s still a work in progress.

“I can’t think beyond cooking. I can’t think beyond here,” Strong said. “I am going to have to not be here.”

As for the future of the space, Strong says she has been trying to sell the businesses, but she says to date, there have been very few bites.