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Sharon Bastille ("Mom") presents a pie. Photo: Nora Flaherty
Sharon Bastille ("Mom") presents a pie. Photo: Nora Flaherty

Serving up meatloaf, pie and community at Mom's Schoolhouse Diner

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At its best, Thanksgiving is about food, family, and community--and Sharon Bastille, better known around her West Potsdam stomping ground as "Mom", has built her business around all those things.

Bastille and her husband, who's a carpenter, own Mom's Schoolhouse Diner, located in a former one-room schoolhouse. Mom's is a '50s diner, where the staff wears red and white checked circle skirts under their aprons.

Bastille has had Mom's for about a decade, after a couple decades spent at home with her kids. She tries to make the diner as much like home as possible by knowing customers' names, likes and dislikes, for example. Though Mom's is a business, Bastille doesn't think of herself as a businesswoman. She told Nora Flaherty she doesn't make a living from the diner. But as long as it breaks even, her priority is creating a nice place for people in the community to come together.

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This summary only contains a portion of what’s in the audio interview. For the full interview, click “listen with NCPR player”.

"My children were grown and they actually said to me, ‘Mom, you have to get a life.’ And that became the diner. I wanted to recreate the atmosphere and the nostalgia, not just pictures of Elvis or Marilyn Monroe on the wall. What I wanted to do was think, what would it have been like if you’d walked into a diner or a place to eat at that time?"

In opening the diner, Bastille was also looking to bring her community together. "A lot of people were disconnected, and though they’ve been neighbors for years, hadn’t seen each each other for years and now they’ve reconnected here and I feel very blessed to be a part of that." When she started the business nine years ago, she says, she wanted to be known for three things: the best burgers, the best pies and the best frappes: "It didn’t make me money. We don’t really see a profit financially, but it does pay its bills."

Bastille lives with her husband in a camper that's parked right outside the diner. “When I came to the place, maybe...five to six years ago, realizing how far in debt I was, that I didn’t like going out in public because I didn’t want to run into someone I owed money to, I finally had to take a look at it", says Bastille. “One of the options, of course, was closing, selling it and selling everything I had and paying everybody off  and I wasn’t quite ready for that.”

Bastille says she's discovered two things from living in a camper: "You don’t need much to be content and happy in this world, and two: a relationship can make it in cramped quarters.”

Looking forward to the next few years, Bastille says she's facing the fact that she doesn’t recover from her 14 or 15 hour days like she used to. “So that’s when we decided that, you know, maybe it’s time to put the schoolhouse up for sale. Am I ready? No. Because I love what I do and I’m not ready to sell it. But it is on the market in case somebody else wants it. I’d love to, of course, see it continue as Mom’s Schoolhouse with the same goals, but someone else might not have those goals.”

If it doesn’t sell, Bastill says she'll make a decision about what to do later. Her children and 11 grandchildren live far away, and she would like to spend more time with them. “And so yes, we’ve put it on the market, but I’m not in a hurry to sell. I tell people, sometimes I forget that it’s for sale!."

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