Cars fill the parking lot at Nicky's Cruisin Diner in Bangor on Monday morning. After 32 years, the diner is closing its doors. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

After more than 32 years, the owners of Nicky’s Cruisin Diner on Union Street in Bangor said Monday that June 30 will be the restaurant’s last day in business. 

Multiple factors went into the decision owners Karen and Howie Day made to close down the restaurant, which the couple has owned for nearly 33 years.

People order breakfast at Nicky’s Diner in Bangor on Monday morning. After 32 years, the diner is closing its doors. (Natalie Williams | BDN)

“The pandemic definitely brought our retirement on a little sooner than we would have hoped,” she said. “But there are lots of other decisions going on. It wasn’t just one thing. It was a combination of things.”

Nicky’s opened in the early 1970s, originally as an ice cream parlor and under the ownership of longtime area restaurateur George Brountas. In 1987, Howie and Karen Day bought the restaurant, and shortly after renamed it Nicky’s Cruisin Diner, eventually expanding it to include a second dining room, as well as a full menu of breakfast, lunch and dinner. In 1992, Nicky’s began hosting classic car drive-in nights, which continued on Wednesday nights each summer until just last year. 

As a teenager in 1992, Stetson resident Jennifer Taylor Sheaff had one of her first summer jobs at Nicky’s, before its expansion. She recalled her time as an ice cream scooper fondly, including a memorable incident in which the rather fussy milkshake machine exploded during a busy afternoon, covering both Sheaff and the cook and his grill with chocolate milkshake.

Kari Wittine, who has worked at Nicky’s Cruisin Diner in Bangor for 30 years, carries an armful of breakfast foods to customers on Monday morning. (Natalie Williams | BDN)

“That summer was filled with lots of memories,” said Sheaff, who also was there when the classic car drive-ins started. “No one ate inside with all those beauties in the parking lot, so that little takeout window was crazy.”

Much of the restaurant is full of retro 1950s and 60s decor, with walls covered in old license plates, old photos, car memorabilia and 45 records, which Karen Day says she will decide what to do with after the restaurant closes. A favorite among families and retirees for its affordable comfort food, Nicky’s also ended up being a spot frequented by people who had just had medical appointments at Northern Light’s Healthcare Mall, located next door.

Due to its close proximity to Bangor International Airport, Nicky’s has also played host to a number of celebrities and political luminaries, most notably former President Barack Obama, who visited Bangor in February 2008 as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president and met Nicky’s customers before his speech at the Bangor Auditorium.

The post announcing the diner’s permanent closure did not specify the reason for its closure, but a number of other restaurants in the Bangor area have fallen victim to tough economic times during the pandemic and decided to close permanently, including the Just Down The Road Grille in Hermon and the downtown Bangor location of Jersey Subs & Sweets.

Jaidan Dow helps customers at Nicky’s Cruisin Diner in Bangor on Monday morning. After 32 years, the diner is closing its doors. (Natalie Williams | BDN)
Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.