Johnny’s Victory Diner in Burrillville receives $40,000 historic preservation grant

An photo taken by NRI NOW in 2018 documents the Hanaways takeover of the business six years ago.

BURRILLVILLE – A 90-year-old Burrillville-based diner will be among 25 restaurants across the country to receive a $40,000 grant through a program aimed at supporting historic small businesses.

Johnny’s Victory Diner will receive the award through the American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s, “Backing Historic Small Restaurants” grant program.

First opened in the 1930s, the diner has had a number of owners over the years, but retained its small, hometown feel. John and Rhonda Hanaway purchased it from Marcel Founteneau in 2018, renaming the former “Monty’s Victory Diner,” and adding barbecue to the traditional diner fare.

In 2020, Johnny’s was named “#1 BBQ in Rhode Island” by Food & Wine Magazine.

The Hanaways have also expanded the small restaurant to include a patio with outdoor seating, a small tiki bar and live music on Friday nights through the warmer months, weather permitting, to accompany their freshly-smoked creations.

It’s not the first time Rhonda has used her non-profit background to apply for grants. The diner received a $15,000 award from Citizens’ Small Business Recovery Program in 2021 to help with pandemic-related losses.

“The Hanaways’ philanthropy, determination, and commitment to their community are just a few of the reasons Johnny’s Victory Diner was one of 134 recipients of a $15,000 grant through Citizens’ Small Business Recovery Program,” the bank noted at the time.

Now, the Backing Historic Small Restaurants grant will be used to support the longtime town business’s continued growth.

“The restaurant also goes mobile as it presents at various pop up events like the Burrillville Arts Festival, car shows, and family events in the town neighborhoods,” noted a release on the award. “The restaurant also gives back to the community through fundraising efforts, sponsoring sports teams, gift card donations and fundraisers for the local Backpack Program.”

It is the third consecutive year the program, a partnership between American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, awards a total of $1 million to deserving businesses, “to help them improve the business’ physical space and support critical operating costs, with the goal of helping these restaurants make an even larger positive impact on their communities.”

“This year’s restaurants embody the unique stories of how local businesses empower communities, sustain cultural traditions, and extend family legacies,” said Katherine Malone-France, chief preservation officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Once again, we heard from small restaurants of all kinds from soda fountains and craft breweries to BBQ stops and specialty bakeries, and from all over the country, reaffirming that, thanks to American Express, these resilient businesses can continue to grow, thrive, and serve their communities.”

The 25 grantees were reportedly selected by the National Trust for Historic Preservation from a group of historic and culturally significant restaurants that operate in historic buildings or neighborhoods, who contribute to their neighborhood’s past and identity.

The full list of winners can be found here.

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