Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Roadateria, A Depression-Era Business at 4076 Boston Post Road

Recently members of the East Bronx History Forum brought to my attention a fascinating old post card showing an odd diner once located at 4076 Boston Post Road very near Pelham's border with the Bronx.  The post card depicted a business named "Roadateria" with one awning that also spelled its name "ROAD-A TERIA."  The post card was available for auction sale on eBay.  The front and back of the post card appear immediately below.

"The Roadateria, located at 4076 Boston Post Road, Bronx, N.Y."
Obverse of Undated and Unused Post Card, Circa 1929-1930.
NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

"The Roadateria, located at 4076 Boston Post Road, Bronx, N.Y."
Reverse of Undated and Unused Post Card, Circa 1929-1930.
NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

Members of the East Bronx History Forum asked if I could provide any information about the history of the business.  Not only had I never seen the post card, but I also had never heard of the business.  

Another Pelham history mystery!  Sleuthing followed.

The business, it turns out, was a "short-lived venture."  The name of the business was "Roadateria Company, Inc."  It seems that the story behind the business is a rather sad one revolving around the rather unsuccessful sons of a hard-driving, self-made millionaire who saw an opportunity to feed New Yorkers from food trucks and built a manufacturing business to satisfy that need.  Roadateria, however, was just one of several unsuccessful ventures of the sons trying to replicate their father's success.

It is very difficult from the available resources to determine with any degree of certainty the complete nature of the business located at 4076 Boston Post Road with precision, but it appears that there was a manufacturing concern located there from 1929 until at least 1930.  That concern manufactured and sold a very distinctive form of prefabricated roadside diner known as a "Roadateria."  Additionally, it seems that along the roadside at that location the owners/manufacturers operated one of their own prefabricated units as a Roadateria Diner frequented by travelers along Boston Post Road that likely included Pelhamites as well as residents of the Bronx and other travelers along the Turnpike.  

As described by one source, the prefabricated Roadateria unit was a "combination dining car, lunch car and road stand" and was "vaguely reminiscent of a diner, but had white clapboard siding, casement windows, and a green tile roof.  One long window of the building opened up to create a road stand in good weather.  It had seats for twenty customers."  (See full reference quoted below.)

The president of Roadateria Company, Inc. was Edward J. Tierney.  Edward J. Tierney had years of experience in the manufacture and sale of food trucks and prefabricated diners.  Edward J. Tierney was one of several sons of Patrick J. Tierney.

In 1895, Patrick J. Tierney founded a chain of lunch wagons that eventually evolved into a business named Tierney Dining Cars.  He grew the chain into 38 lunch wagons that operated around the clock at "strategic locations" in the New York region.  Although he first had his lunch wagons built for him, in 1905 Tierney began building his own units in a garage behind his home located at Cottage Place in New Rochelle.  The history of Tierney Dining Cars and its successor businesses is fascinating in its own right.  Some of the following discussion is based upon information and cited sources referenced in "Tierney Dining Cars" in WIKIPEDIA -- The Free Encyclopedia (visited Apr. 5, 2016).  

Although the Patrick J. Tierney business began manufacturing truck-based dining cars, with the rise of automobiles, the business evolved to manufacture "diners" that were "modeled after railroad dining cars" intended to be placed at fixed locations rather than moving from one location to another.  The business was extraordinarily successful  Tierney died a millionaire in 1917.  At that time, a million dollars was worth about $18.524 million in 2016 dollars.

Patrick Tierney's two sons, Edward J. and Edgar T. Tierney, formed a parnership and took over their father's business.  Soon they converted the partnership into a corporation named P. J. Tierney Sons, Inc.  The shareholders of the new company were the two Tierney sons and their uncle, Daniel Tierney.  The Tierney Brothers became prolific manufacturers of dining cars.  

Then, however, during the "Roaring Twenties" they tried to expand beyond the mere manufacture of such lunch wagons and diner cars.  They also issued stock to the public, like so many other businesses at the time.  According to one source:

"Aside from manufacturing cars, for which they also offered operational training courses for new owners, the Tierney brothers also established the Tierney Operating Company in 1923. The purpose of this listed company was to open one new company-owned diner per week on average, over a period of four years. The brothers signed over all of their existing cars in New Jersey, New York and Westchester County to the company and offered half of its 500,000 shares to the public."

Source:  "Tierney Dining Cars" in WIKIPEDIA -- The Free Encyclopedia (visited Apr. 5, 2016). 

As the Roaring Twenties rolled along, the company experienced financial difficulties.  The company took on a major investor who subsequently claimed he had been defrauded into investing $500,000 in exchange for stock while being misled about the liabilities of the company.  Litigation resulted.  Ultimately, Edward J. Tierney and his uncle, Daniel, had to sell -- first -- their controlling interest and, finally, their entire interest -- in the company.  The company without the Tierney Brothers (and their uncle) thereafter changed its name to P. J. Tierney, Inc. and continued to manufacturer lunch wagons and diners without the Tierneys.  

In February, 1927, the Tierney Brothers and their uncle formed "Tierney Brothers" to compete with their former business.  Tierney Brothers was based in Mount Vernon but was quickly shut down when the former business obtained injunctive relief preventing the Tierneys from using their name in connection with such a business.  The Tierneys changed the name of the business to "Pioneer Lunch Car Builders, Inc." and tried to launch again.  

Edward J. Tierney served as president of "Pioneer Lunch Car Builders, Inc." located at 800 South Fulton Avenue.  By March 28, 1928, Tierney had "Conceived & Designed" the concept of "THE ROADATERIA" according to materials submitted in connection with a lawsuit brought by United Kitchen Equipment Co., Inc. first against Pioneer Lunch Car Builders, Inc. seeking to attach the property of Pioneer Lunch to satisfy a judgment for alleged failure to pay for certain kitchen equipment delivered to Pioneer Lunch.  On May 2, 1928, Pioneer Lunch Car Builders, Inc. filed for bankruptcy.  Following the bankruptcy of Pioneer Lunch, United Kitchen sued the Sheriff and Deputy Sheriff of Westchester County claiming they had negligently delayed securing the property attachment until after Pioneer Lunch declared bankruptcy.  See United Kitchen Equipment Co., Inc., Plaintiff-Respondent v. Thomas V. Underhill, as Sheriff of Westchester County and William F. Murphy, Deputy Sheriff, No. 425, Case on Appeal pp. 69 - 109 (N.Y. App. Div. 2nd Dep't, 1931).  

The materials submitted to Appellate Division, 2nd Department for the above-referenced case on appeal paint a picture of Pioneer Lunch Car Builders, Inc. as a very troubled business struggling to build lunch wagons while fending off creditors at a time when the American economy was humming along.  At least in the case of kitchen equipment provided by United Kitchen, it seems apparent that Edward J. Tierney strung the company and its representatives along, failed to keep promises, dodged the creditors, and, generally, paid in increments only when forced to do so.  Ultimately, bankruptcy resulted.  

In 1929, Edward J. Tierney became involved with a company named Roadateria Company, Inc.  He became president of the company, but it was a short-lived business likely among the many such businesses ravaged by the Great Depression.  Although it is not certain how long the business manufactured Roadateria diners, it seems at least possible that the business operated a working Roadateria diner at 4076 Boston Post Road until at least 1930, when a help-wanted advertisement appeared in a local newspaper seeking waitresses for a Roadateria Diner at that location.

Help Wanted Advertisement Published in 1930 Seeking
"counter girls, and waitresses" for Roadateria Located at
4076 Boston Post Road.  Source:  [Untitled Advertisement],
The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], May 22, 1930, p. 26,
Col. 3.  NOTE:  Click on Image to Enlarge.

Shares of the public company P. J. Tierney, Inc., once owned by the Tierney Brothers and their uncle, ceased trading in 1933.  Remnants of the company, however, "passed into what is now DeRaffele Manufacturing Company."  Id.

After his Roadateria efforts, Edward J. Tierney seems to have retired for a time.  However, "[j]ust before he died in 1946, he tried again with a company called Tierney Diners, Inc., but that, too, produced nothing beyond the design phase."  Id.    

In short, it seems that the fascinating post card showing a "Roadateria" located at 4076 Boston Post Road, depicts a rare form of American diner 

*          *          *          *          *

"Roadateria Company, Inc.  4076 Boston Post Road, Bronx, NY, 1929

Edward J. Tierney was president of this short-lived venture after he was forced out of P. J. Tierney Sons, Inc.  The company manufactured a prefab 'combination dining car, lunch car and road stand.'  The unit was vaguely reminiscent of a diner, but had white clapboard siding, casement windows, and a green tile roof.  One long window of the building opened up to create a road stand in good weather.  It had seats for twenty customers."  

Source:  Gutman, Richard J.S., American Diner -- Then and Now, p. 238 (Baltimore, MD and London:  The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993).    

Want Irwin Untermyer to Hold His 4900 Shares.
Appears in White Plains Court Against Lunch Wagon Makers.

Special Dispatch to THE SUN.

WHITE PLAINS, March 4. -- Irwin Untermyer appeared before Supreme Court Justice Joseph Morschauser here to-day in opposition to the application for an injunction made by Edward J. and Daniel W. Tierney of New Rochelle to restrain him from selling at public auction 4,900 shares of the stock of P. J. Tierney & Sons Company, manufacturers of lunch wagons in New Rochelle.  Mr. Untermyer contends the sale is necessary to make up a shortage of $95,699.29 in the liabilities of the corporation, which he asserts was misrepresented to him when he bought 51 per cent. of the stock.  

Deal Is Described.

Mr. Untermyer was represented at the hearing by Louis Marshall of the firm of Untermyer & Marshall, while Frederick P. Close appeared for Edward J. and Daniel W. Tierney, two of the other principal stockholders of the Tierney company.  According to Mr. Marshall, his client turned over to the corporation $425,000 to pay debts, and other obligations, and then loaned Edward J. Tierney $40,000.  This money was paid by Mr. Untermyer, who is a son of Samuel Untermyer, on September 21, 1926.  The plaintiffs then deposited 4,900 shares of the P. J. Tierney & Sons Company stock as collateral with Mr. Untermyer.  

Mr. Marshall said that Mr. Untermyer relied on the statement of the assets and liabilities when he paid in the money, and later, when expert accountants examined the books, there was found a discrepancy in the report which increased the liabilities to $95,699.29.  This Mr. Untermyer wants the Tierneys to make good, or he says he will sell the collateral left in his hands.

More Time Given.

Mr. Close, in behalf of the Tierneys, contended that the stock could not be sold until there had been a law suit properly adjudicated.  'The company was on the verge of bankruptcy and Mr. Untermyer took it out of the jaws of death,' said Mr. Marshall, 'by making the large loan.  Now he wants to get back in the treasury the amount that ws misstated as to liabilities when he took over the controlling stock.

Justice Morschauser gave Mr. Close additional time for filing affidavits.

The stock had been noticed for sale on March 22."

Source:  TIERNEYS SEEK TO BLOCK SALE -- Want Irwin Untermyer to Hold His 4900 Shares -- HE CHARGES BIG SHORTAGE -- Appears in White Plains Court Against Lunch Wagon Makers, The New York Sun, Mar. 4, 1927, p. 9, cols. 2-3.  

They Win Injunction in Untermyer Suit Over Lunch Wagon Stock

Edward J. Tierney and Daniel W. Tierney of New Rochelle scored a point this week when Supreme Court Justice Morschauer at White Plains granted them an injunction against Irwin Untermyer, retraining him from selling at public auction 4,900 shares of stock of the P. J. Tierney & Sons, manufacturers of lunch wagons, providing the issues involved in the suit are tried May 16.

The Tierney lunch wagons are in operation in almost every town in Westchester.

Through Louis Marshall, Mr. Untermyer sued the plaintiffs to compel them to make good $95,699.29, which he contended was the discrepancy between the assets and liabilities after he bought the stock, although Mr. Untermyer said he was told the assets far exceeded the debts.  Then Mr. Untermyer, who said he gave $500,000 for the stock of the lunch wagon company, threatened to sell the stock which had been put up as security to guarantee the statement that the company had no large debts outside those enumerated by an accountant.  

Mr. Untermyer contends that the plaintiffs had failed to make good under the contract and for that reason he insisted that the money he returned to the treasury of the Tierney Company or he would sell the stock Feb. 18.  The injunction was applied for and the sale has been held in abeyance since.

The Tierneys, through Frederick P. Close, denied that the company owned the large amount specified by Mr. Undermyer."

Source:  TIERNEYS SCORE IN WESTCHESTER -- They Win Injunction in Untermyer Suit Over Lunch Wagon Stock, The Hastings News, Apr. 22, 1927, p. 16, col. 1.  

Filed By Edward J. Tierney, Manufacturer

New York, Sept. 16. -- (INS) -- Petition in bankruptcy was filed in U.S. district court here today by Edward J. Tierney, manufacturer of New York, listing liabilities of $592,315, and assets, $20,757.  He has a share in Tierney brothers, of 800 South Fulton avenue, Mount Vernon.  

Among his creditors, he owes the following:  Mount Vernon Trust company, $41,999.  Balz brothers, of New Rochelle, $2,00.  [Likely $2,000]  Mamaroneck National bank, of Mamaroneck, $4,500.  D. W. Tierney, of New Rochelle, $75,000.  Edgar T. Tierney, of New Rochelle, $400,000."

Source:  PETITION IN BANKRUPTCY -- Filed By Edward J. Tierney, Manufacturer, The Daily Argus [Mount Vernon, NY], Sep. 16, 1927, p. 10, col. 5.  

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