Yankee Doodle’s Done
Mike Bryant (pictured below) gasped at the sign on the door: “Oh! That’s so sad!”
After 58 years serving up fried hamburgers and eggs at an intimate location on downtown Elm Street, The Yankee Doodle Coffee Shop has closed.
A sign on the door says as of Tuesday, the Doodle will be closed, “for good.” The sign says the reason for closing is “due to economic times.”
“Thank you for over a half century of great memories,” the sign reads. The Doodle was known for fine greasy food at remarkably cheap prices.
Customers like Bryant were crestfallen by the sudden news — no warning was given to customers ahead of time. Bryant, who works at Yale’s nearby power plant, said he used to pop over to the Doodle for a hamburger during lunch.
“They had a real hamburger,” said Bryant, “fried on the grill.” Bryant had been eating there since the 80’s, when he worked at the Yale Co-op. He regretted he caught a chest cold and missed his last chance for a bite last week.
Before jumping on a city bus, Bryant remarked on the loss of what had become an institution to the Yale and downtown community. “It’s these little small places that make the best food,” he said. “I guess all good things must come to an end.”
Reached last week between shifts at the grill, Doodle owner Rick Beckwith confirmed there was an “ongoing dispute” between the legendary diner and its landlord, John Parker, who reportedly has been jacking up the rent. Neither side could be reached for this story — click here for a Yale Alumni Magazine article exploring that issue.
Rick Beckwith is the grandson of Lewis Beckwith, who founded the eatery in 1950 — click here for a YAM article on its history.
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Posted by: walt bradley | January 29, 2008 5:17 PM
a small but significant piece of my youth has died today. long live buttered hamburger buns!
Posted by: robn | January 29, 2008 5:26 PM
HOLY FREAKIN' SMOKES...NO MORE DOODLE!!!
Posted by: Pedro | January 29, 2008 5:30 PM
This is terrible news!! New Haveners it's time to unite to try to reverse this terrible tragedy!
Are you friends with John Parker? Give him a piece of your mind! Urge the city to maintain it's efforts
to broker a solution!
What?! According to the linked YAM article, this is being done by the owner of York Copy, a business that survives by selling over-priced course packets to Yalies, mostly because lazy Profs don't think of shopping around for the best prices for their students. I think the good Professors might want to re-consider that cozy relationship.
More immediately, could Bruce Alexander find some Yale-owned space for the Doodle? It is a Yale tradition and its not like all the Yale storefronts are exactly occupied ...
Posted by: king james v | January 29, 2008 6:23 PM
What are the people at tyco going to do with the 200
I would not mind seeing yale kick out that disgusting convience store by batel chapel and putting the doodle in that spot, we've got plenty of places to buy cigarettes and pork rinds in town. perhaps the doodle can go into the spot earmarked for dunkin donuts or the liquor store on the green. i would like that.
The doodle was the anthesis of louies lunch. unpretentious, quick and allowed US to decide what went on the burger.
Farwell doodle, you were indeed a dandy.
Posted by: Simon | January 29, 2008 9:21 PM
It is certainly a great loss to New Haven that a business of this longevity had to close its doors, but closing daily at 2PM certainly doesn't fit the students' lifestyle. I truly think that if they kept normal hours and were able to adjust to our late night life they would definitely still be in business today. It seems like their doors were always closed or the stools empty and they did not take any steps to increase business.
King James -- I am not sure what convenience store you are talking about, but if it sells cigs then I don't think Yale owns it (they forbid their tenants to sell cigarettes.) All good ideas, though, even if non-Yale properties.
Posted by: TrueBlueCT | January 29, 2008 10:06 PM
So sad. I hope the Beckwiths will consider selling the business to a new operator.
And to those putting down Tyco's John Parker, -- if he didn't treat The Doodle fairly, that would be a departure. Over the years he'd always enjoyed a good reputation as landlord.
One wonders if the property is being bought by, gasp, Yale, for re-development. The former Rosenberg/Barrie's store(next door), remains vacant.
I hope NHI will do a follow-up with more details.
Posted by: strangerthanfiction | January 29, 2008 11:02 PM
Say it ain't so!! Along with Louis Lunch the Doodle was burger heaven. I'll really miss it! Great burgers and shakes, great atmosphere. What a shame.
Posted by: DingDong | January 30, 2008 12:19 AM
Bring back the Doodle. This is a tragedy! The only island of originality and character in the Broadway/Elm Sea of Blandness.
PS Isn't Broadway Pizza owned by Yale? They sell cigarettes.
Posted by: cedarhillresident | January 30, 2008 8:51 AM
Another one bites the dust......where is my New Haven going!!!! My goodness the list just keeps growing in the past year or two.
All the great little places are slipping through our fingers. Uggg!! Shame on you Landlord! This was a part of New Haven. Like Lou's Lunch. Is that next? I have to wonder what franchise has snagged that corner? It is a busy one.
Posted by: z | January 30, 2008 10:24 AM
hey, how is yale going to attract students if they don't turn downtown into a standard suburban mall?
Above I said "York Copy" when I meant "Tyco".
In the Yale Daily today, Tyco defends the rent for the Doodle as being high "only on a square foot basis," because the store is small. Of course, cost per square foot is the only thing that matters and the Daily says that the rent is much higher per sq. foot than what Yale is charging nearby. To add to the stupidity, then, Tyco will almost surely lose money on this deal, as they won't be able to rent out that space for the same $/sq. foot. At some point perhaps they'll shove a cheap cell phone store in there, or something. Sad.
Posted by: Michael Iannuzzi (TYCO) | January 30, 2008 1:02 PM
Watching the Doodle go out of business was as sad for me as it was for any member of the community. Knowing the family as a neighbor and personal friend for 37 years makes me sad and angered to be depicted as the type of person that would contribute to the demise of this business.
Over the past two years I did everything possible to work with the difficult economic times the Doodle was experiencing, but I certainly did not contribute to this difficulty. During this period of economic difficulty, there was no rent increase and I was patient and cooperated when the Doodle could not afford to pay. After a year of economic difficulties, the lease was still renewed and with no increase. As a friend, I offered assistance and business advice, but respected the rejection of these offers. As a neighbor and personal friend of the family, I wanted to understand and I wanted to help, but the business closing became more and more inevitable.
I do know that I contributed to two additional years of the Doodle being open and I did it with my heart. Whatever the reasons the Doodle has closed certainly were not caused by this neighbor and personal friend of the Beckwith Family.
Michael P. Iannuzzi
Owner of TYCO
Posted by: Joe Piteo | January 30, 2008 3:25 PM
I will take Michael Iannuzzi at his word (for the moment) and thank him for whatever financial forbearance he showed to the Beckwiths.
In the last analysis, "The Doodle" is an institution, a good one, and I will do everything I can to help restore this powerful reminder simple times and a total lack of pretense.
One way for me to help is to investigate and make public the forces, both economic and political, that rape and pillage these sorts of havens in the name of some greater good.
I belong to the generation that came after "the great generation", and I am ashamed of our legacy. The demise of the Doodle is one more, albeit tiny, failure of a generation that just seems to love to wallow in failure.
Save the Doodle
Posted by: MisterJones | January 30, 2008 5:19 PM
Cut these guys some slack, bloggers!
This is backbreaking work--standing in one spot manning the grill for 7-8 hours straight. And somebody said he should stay open later? You try it! While that may by how the Lassen's have kept Louis Lunch open, by catering to the late night bar crowd, the Doodle was a breakfast/lunch place. Rick Beckwith's father stood in that spot almost 'til the day he died.
Mike Iannuzzi is not the bad guy here. It's economics. The place was obviously way too small to do enough volume to make money. Wholesale food prices have skyrocketed recently--doubled in some cases.
Believe me, I hate to see the Doodle go. But if anyone of you amateurs out there think you can make it work, go for it. But if Mr. Beckwith, a real pro, can't make it, who can?
So honor Rick Beckwith, third generation master of the lost art of the short order cook. He was a marvel of speed and efficiency in motion at the grill. Why isn't he on youtube?
Posted by: Bill Saunders | January 30, 2008 6:15 PM
Had I only known that was my last Pig in a Blanket, last week, I would have had two.. (the barbecue sauce was even back!)
And as for the death of the my occasional weird friend, the refried donut -- your sickly sweetness I will taste forever.
This is the last family institution I thought I'd see disappear.
What's next, a Pizza Hut in Wooster Square???
Posted by: jt | January 30, 2008 7:03 PM
So sad. This is part of our history. I sure will miss seeing that sign as part of Broadway.
Posted by: zulu143 | January 30, 2008 8:38 PM
I am so sorry to hear that this New Haven landmark is closing. I was a neighbor of Lew and Pat for many years. Lew was (and Pat is) very fine people. I wish the best for all of the Beckwiths as you move on.
I also want to add a comment about my utter facination with this forum of interactive internet journalism that the Independent is bringing us. To read a news story and then have one of the principles in the story be able to respond in near real time... very cool!
Posted by: Scott Proper | January 31, 2008 12:14 AM
You can help fix this problem. Talk is cheap.
A group of Yale alumni held a conference call with Rick to discuss his problems and potential solutions.
There is a Facebook group called "Save the Doodle" set up and we are working on a website.
You can also donate funds via PayPal, as The Doodle has some immediate financial needs it must address.
More information is on Facebook, or please contact me directly if you have questions.
Scott Proper '01
Posted by: asw | January 31, 2008 7:51 AM
Any possibility that the Beckwith family would sell the business to an individual/group who might even be willing to operate at a loss (in order to keep a NH institution alive)? Obviously, there would be some consulting of the new ownership that would need to take place, in order to maintain the Doodle's authenticity.
I agree with Joe from above...let's find a way to Save the Doodle!
Posted by: on whalley | January 31, 2008 8:29 AM
Any possibility that the Beckwith family would sell the business to an individual/group who might even be willing to operate at a loss (in order to keep a NH institution alive)?
Jesus man. Why not just demand the city run it at the taxpayers expense? Oh, I know! We could force their landlord to take no rent or a minimal symbolic rent.
I can't see as how there would be anyone out there willing to operate a money-pit of a business unless you can find somebody really rich and either really stupid or really nostalgic or both.
The market is still free, right? I didn't hit my head and travel through some pinko dimensional gate or anything?
The sign comes down. The Yalies have a class change. The townies go on with their lives. Nobody remembers what the "Yankee Doodle" was. It may have been around for nearly 60 years but it will be less than 6 years before it's forgotten.
Posted by: asw | January 31, 2008 9:18 AM
First of all, I would argue that we do, in fact, have our fair share of wealthy, nostalgic folks in town. Who knows, some of these folks may even have an affinity for buttered hamburgers, fried donuts or vanilla Cokes.
Second, there may be an investor that is willing to run the business at a loss for a while, while learning the operations, before changing pieces of the business model (extended hours, price increases or any other changes that might make it profitable once again).
Lastly, I disagree with your argument that the Doodle will be so easily forgotten. Regular trips downtown to the Doodle on Wednesday afternoons are an indelible memory from my high school days. I guarantee that I am not alone.
Posted by: Brie | January 31, 2008 9:20 AM
To: On Whalley from above: I don't think you get it nor do you appreciate what the Doodle was and is for the city of New Haven.
If someone wanted to purchase the Doodle and try and run it for a profit, then why wouldn't that be a great idea. There are many ways with new marketing and maybe some new ideas, along with keeping the traditions the Doodle obtains, that someone could turn the Doodle back into the money-maker it once was. I understand that Mr. Beckwith is probably tired and wants to move on, but he should appreciate the many lives his family's resturant and food has touched.
We also don't want to see Mr. Beckwith lose a potentially money-making situation for himself. I am positive he could have a buyer for the Doodle business, if not a buyer for the name alone. I think to keep the Doodle dream alive you would need to think outside of the box, a little, but it can be done, in a respectable way.
My father's generation is the generation that began with the Doodle, mine is a generation of free-thinkers and go getters - let the "technology" generation help where it can. Although, some may think we are fool kids with no sense of tradition...you are very mislead. We see how traditions effect our parents, some good, some bad, and we hold onto what was and still is good in this country...and the Doodle just happens to be one of those traditions.
Save the Doodle!!!
Posted by: AC | January 31, 2008 1:35 PM
THE DOODLE CAN BE SAVED
Without doubt, as mentioned, there are people willing to give an arm and a leg to get it back on its feet- One wealthy Yale alumni with fond memories could do it, and easily all the people who I have heard lamenting and posting and talking together could make it happen, even buy out the space so rent is no longer an issue.
Seriously, what else are you going to do with that space that will make any money or add anything to the city of New Haven the way the Doodle did.
One thing I can add definitively:
All the Doodle needs to work is extended hours. I went to grew up in New Haven and attended Yale- It's just not the kind of food people want to eat for breakfast the way they used to, but get it open, at least for late dinners, when I always wanted it, and it can make good money. It certainly shouldn't be on Rick to work all those hours, but surely someone could be trained to split the shift... Anyone interested?
To Michael Iannuzzi,
I appreciate your stopping by to give your side of the story. It is very important to know that you didn't increase the rent. However, from a pure business point-of-view, let me address your point that the rent is "only high on a square-foot-basis." That is the only basis that counts! In the Daily, you say that Tyco will probably take over that space because it is too small to be rentable. "Unrentable" tells you that market rent in $/sq. ft for that space ought to be lower than nearby establishments,
Think of the great publicity of taking the Doodle back at reduced rent. I agree that the Doodle owners would need some help to come up with a viable business plan and it sounds like there are folks who are willing to help with that.
Posted by: Chris Gray | February 1, 2008 2:45 AM
While never a devotee, I will miss the Doodle but not more than the less aged and less venerable Daily Cafe nor more than the far older and much more illustrious Yale Co-op (who, but a townie, even now remembers that name, now?).
Mike Iannuzzi, a former employer of mine, is a voice I trust and what I hear him saying is that Rick Beckwith was resistant to changes that could have improved his situation, as well he might have been, since just accomplishing what he did must have been gruelingly exhausting.
Times have changed, market forces are irresistible and I, for one, do not have the energy to go to war over this bit of '50s nostalgia. Louis' Lunch and the Anchor Bar are different stories.
Posted by: asw | February 1, 2008 7:29 AM
It looks like someone has taken an active lead to organize a Save the Doodle campaign (or at least help liquidate the rest of the Doodle merchandise):
Posted by: on whalley | February 1, 2008 1:12 PM
I don't get it. They state that the "Doodle is closing its door for good" then go on to ask for donations?
Let's see a dollar amount that will actually "save the Doodle." That is, of course, unless these donations are a scam to pocket some retirement funds and there is no intention whatsoever to "save the Doodle." What then if it is "saved?" Will patronage suddenly increase? Will the bills get paid? Or is the situation of closing the Doodle a scam from the get go. Sort of like making a lover jealous to get some attention. A crying out from the forgotten corner "Hey, remember us? We're the Doodle!"
Posted by: Joe Piteo | February 1, 2008 4:38 PM
To On Whalley: My God you frighten me. One part of me suspects that the writer is a simply trying to "stir the pot" - a lonely soul with nothing to do but bang on the cell bars. One part of me, however, fears that this is a young person and therefore a part of a new generation that is not filled with so much venom. Or perhaps it's just a reading or comprehension problem.
This kind on diatribe is just not warranted by the facts of this story, and it slanders people who have genuinely unselfish motives. The ease with which some people slide into a mindless ooze of conspiracy is really getting tiresome. This is not a plot to rob "On Whalley", or anyone else, of their pocket change; it is a spontaneous and uncomplicated reaction to potential end of something important. That is lacks importance to some is understandable; such a vituperative reaction is twisted. To paint it as something, even the slightest bit, tainted is reprehensible. Mr. On Whalley, when the Doodle reopens go down and visit. In the last analysis your opinion is irritating, ill-mannered; and, it is irrelevant.
To Rich Beckwith and "the Doodle" family: We understand how hard this decision must have been; certainly we saw how hard all of you worked. I never ceased to be amazed at your willingness to press a seemingly endless number of hamburgers on that grill. No-one could ever fault you for wanting to go do something else. No-one would ever ask you to martyr yourself to a hot stove so that we could occasionally drop in for a slice of American nostalgia. We'd all like to save the Doodle in a way that rewards you for being its caretaker for so many years. Our desire, and I think I speak for many, is that we can go back to enjoying the Doodle and introducing the Doodle to our children and grandchildren, explaining the "Doodle shuffle", the merits of fried hamburgers, and real vanilla Cokes. Our desire however is to thank you not to make you an indentured servant.
To Mike Iannuzzi: Methinks you protest a bit too much. However, during the ensuing plans and negotiations, consider selling the Tyco building at a reasonable price to an expanded Doodle "annex". It would be nice if the Doodle had the option to keep the original counter as the backdrop for a modern restaurant facility that was able to vary (a bit) with the times while preserving that flashback to different eras. In preserving that simpler time and by reminding us of what must be a most prestigious list of customers, the new Doodle can become a icons for generations to come.
To everyone else: Save the Doodle !
Posted by: Peterson | February 4, 2008 11:07 PM
From my perspective (alum, eating at the Doodle maybe 2-3x/year), it has seemed like Rick's heart really hasn't been in it for a while. The place was his dad's baby and he was there to do his duty. He never seemed really happy to be there. (Lew was a better cook too)
Moving to a new Yale-owned site might work, but a lot would be lost in the transition, as much of the charm is that the place as been the SAME for 50 years. And Yale is not known as being a great landlord, especially with their demand for long operating hours (which helped to drive out Barrie's from next door and Quality from across the street).
The limited hours are a drag, but how much can you demand of a family business with no real outside employees, doing hard physical work. I was lucky to be there in the late 90's, when Lew was still healthy and Rick was back in the fold, allowing the Doodle to operate in the morning with the older generation behind the counter and the next generation in the afternoon and evening.
What are the options? Could some outside help be brought in to allow longer hours and less of a drain on Rick and Darlene?
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