HALLOWELL — Less than a year after a July 4 opening, Buddy’s Diner abruptly shut its doors Memorial Day weekend.

Buddy Iaciofano said there were several major factors that led to his decision to close the all-day breakfast restaurant he opened last year using money he inherited after the death of his grandmother.

“I’ve just had a recent life-changing experience being diagnosed with emphysema,” he said during a phone interview Monday. “After 17 years of smoking and not really caring about my health to then almost dying, it’s a perspective change, for sure.”

Iaciofano said he decided to close the restaurant after reviewing financial information and realizing he wouldn’t have been able to pay his employees past Memorial Day. He said he wanted to give them more notice, but he also didn’t want them to work and not be compensated.

“It’s embarrassing, but I looked at the numbers for Memorial Day, and saw that if I keep the doors open, they wouldn’t have gotten a pay check,” he said.

Tiana Bonenfant served as the restaurant’s bar manager and said she was shocked the restaurant closed.

“I was bummed because I think it was a great concept,” she said via email.

The restaurant billed itself as an all-day breakfast diner and was open Tuesday through Sunday from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Bonenfant said the restaurant needed to do a better job advertising that it served more than just breakfast. There were regular lunch and dinner items, special entrees and a full bar.

“I had people constantly come in saying they didn’t know we had a full bar,” Bonenfant said. “As much as word of mouth works, more advertising about the other items we offered would have helped educate more people.”

Iaciofano purchased Hattie’s Chowder House at 103 Water St. for $50,000 in May 2016 with his then-fiancée Becky Havens. Havens started working at the diner as its general manager, but Iaciofano said the partnership just didn’t work.

“(We) went into this together and we ended up just fighting and not getting along,” he said. “We broke up in April, and if I had to do it again, I’d probably choose to go into business with someone I was a little less intimate with.”

Havens was trying to put together enough capital, Iaciofano said, to buy the business and keep the diner running, but as of now that hasn’t happened. She didn’t return a request for comment, but Bonenfant said the location is great and she hopes another restaurant moves in sometime soon.

“It was successful for many years as Hattie’s, and I could see it being a successful location again,” she said. “It just needs the right concept and maybe more funding for advertising.”

Iaciofano, 32, isn’t entirely sure what his future holds, and he hasn’t ruled out a return to the restaurant business down the road. He said he’d like to start a program where he could raise awareness for debilitating smoking-related diseases.

He said he needs to leave the restaurant business behind now because of his compromised health. He said when he learned of his lung condition, he knew he had to make major changes in his life.

Despite the challenges that came with owning and operating a diner, Iaciofano said he doesn’t regret anything; rather he wishes he would’ve done some things differently.

“The way Buddy’s was set up was logistically unsound without $100,000 in renovations, which wasn’t something I could afford at the time,” he said. “You have to plan it properly because there’s so much risk involved with owning a restaurant.”

In order to try and make back some of the money he put into the venture, Iaciofano is selling some items for $20,000, and he’s also selling other items separately. He’s locked into a 10-year lease, but he’s hopeful that he’ll find someone to take over the space.

“There’s a clause in the lease that stipulates the equipment remain, because the landlord definitely wants it to remain a restaurant,” he said.

Iaciofano became emotional on the phone when talking about how many people have come up to him the last month to ask him to keep the restaurant open.

“It hurts every time someone brings it up to me,” he said. “I loved that restaurant.”

He said he’s keeping his feelers out for prospective buyers and recently ran into someone who said they had a friend interested in the space.

No matter what he decides in the future, Iaciofano is staying in Hallowell.

“Hallowell’s my home, and it’ll always be my home,” he said. “It’ll take a lot more than this to drive me away.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ