Business Spotlights

Business Profile: Bob’s Diner, Brewster

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The tattoo on Tom Sprague’s left forearm is all a customer needs to know about his devotion to the family business, Bob’s Diner.

The ink, which Sprague got three years ago is of the actual established, nestled inside the village of Brewster’s main street and standing for almost 60 years. As he said, “it’s free advertising.”

Since he was only 19-years-old, Sprague has been running Bob’s Diner serving up breakfast, lunch, and dinner to plenty of regular customers he’s gotten to know over the years and commuters simply looking for a quick bite to eat. First opened back in 1955 when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president and a stamp costs a measly 3 cents, the diner has become a central identity, surviving while dozens of dozens of businesses have opened and subsequently closed around it.

Sprague’s grandfather, who was named Bob, opened the doors to the cozy eatery before Tom was even alive. After Bob died of cancer—Sprague was 10-years-old at the time—Tom’s uncle took over.

During that time, Sprague was always at the diner, working for the family business when he was still in middle school. First, he washed dishes, then when he was 14 he became a waiter, and by the time he was a senior in high school, Sprague had his own cooking shift after learning the ropes for a couple of years.

Then, at 19, Sprague’s responsibility expanded—dramatically and also tragically.

His uncle has died in 1996, leaving a void in the family business. Rather than letting someone else run a family establishment, Sprague stepped up and began operating it. In his opinion, there was little other option.

“What was I going to do, let someone else run my grandfather’s business,” Sprague said.

While understandably overwhelming at first, a terrific staff that worked for his uncle stayed on and helped him adjust to every side of the diner. Looking back on taking over after his uncle passed, Sprague said he was looking forward to working with for him years ahead rather than taking over for him.

“I’m going to give it to you in a few years,” Sprague recalled his uncle telling him, noting. “I wanted to work aside him.”

The diner has been an active in community, as well. In the span of 15 minutes, Sprague chitchatted with a few customers who he knew by name and joked around with them.

Each year since 2006, the diner has hosted a free Thanksgiving dinner on the actual day. Patrons are encouraged to bring food to the dinner and though Sprague admits the day is long, he said as long as at least of a couple residents stop by it’s worth it.

With the diner reaching a 60 year milestone, Sprague said he’s brainstorming ideas to put forth to mark the big anniversary like making t-shirts or adding a new wrinkle to the diner’s annual pumpkin carving bash.

Sprague estimates he’ll be in his 70s by the time the diner hits that 100-year milestone. He said the diner has been in existence for such a lengthy time because he treats every customer that walks into the diner as someone who is coming over his own home for dinner.

“If you were having company over, how would you treat people,” Sprague said. “I just try to do the same thing. Consistency, that’s the key to the restaurant business. Just make the food the same way every single time. Everybody seems to like it so they keep coming back.”

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