Doodle fans await badges of support

Like many former Elis, Phoebe Moore ’93 loved the burgers at the Yankee Doodle. When she learned that the struggling restaurant closed its doors ‘for good’ citing ‘economic considerations’ in late January, Moore immediately ordered two ceramic mugs on the Doodle’s Web site, thinking she was doing her part to rescue the Doodle from $12,000 debt. But now, more than seven months after she paid for her order, she is still waiting for her merchandise. Staff reporter Raymond Carlson investigates what delays like this could mean for the future of owner Rick Beckwith and the Doodle.

Moore is not alone, and this may spell trouble for Doodle owner Rick Beckwith’s plans to reopen the famed restaurant that has been in his family’s hands for 57 years, spanning three generations. At least a dozen alumni from across the country have spent months waiting to receive Doodle mugs, tote-bags and other paraphanalia they ordered from they Doodle’s site. Many of these alumni, including Moore, said they have repeatedly attempted to contact Beckwith, but to no avail.

A new plaque about the former Yankee Doodle diner has been installed at TYCO.
Chris Young
A new plaque about the former Yankee Doodle diner has been installed at TYCO.

But Beckwith — who has been increasingly media-shy since his restaurant closed — said yesterday that he mailed out all orders by April and May after waiting for merchandise that had been on backorder. Unfortunately, he said, some of the items could not be shipped to the proper mailing address, and were returned to Beckwith after he sent them. As such, Beckwith said that as recently as last week, he has been working to complete online orders.

“It’s been a long process,” he said. “These products are going out. Some of the items have been returned [by mail], but they are being re-shipped.”

Beckwith said he has since even hand-delivered some items to local residents, though he said he could not provide specific numbers off the top of his head.

Alumni waiting for their merchandise have been getting impatient, however, and over a dozen purchasers have broadcast their frustrations over the three incarnations of “Save the Doodle” facebook groups.

Ned Murphy ’07, for example, said he paid $93.60 for the six Doodle t-shirts he ordered on Jan. 29, but he never received them.

“I would expect Rick to send me my merchandise or refund me,” he said. “I hope Rick can set this right and restore our faith in the Doodle.”

While Beckwith said setting the situation right is exactly what he is trying to do, some alumni disagree. Malcolm Dickinson ’89 said he ordered two ceramic Doodle mugs and additional merchandise. After months of waiting and being denied a refund, he received a package from Beckwith a few days ago. But, he said, the package contained the wrong merchandise.

With alumni support essential to the prospects of a new Doodle, the loss of alumni trust could stall any plans for a new Doodle under Beckwith’s leadership. Already, in April, Richard Nash Gould ’68 ARCH ’72 — one of six alumni who originally planned to help finance the new restaurant — dropped out because of what he called Beckwith’s “disastrous” financial situation.

In an interview with the News in May, Phillip McKee ’94, a leader in the reopening effort, said he wants to structure the business such that the Beckwith can retain partial ownership and management.

“[The new Doodle] would be a company in which there are investors that have an ownership stake and some decision making, but also where the Beckwiths are part of both the ownership and management,” he said in May. McKee did not specify how significant a role Beckwith would play in running the new Doodle.

McKee could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Beckwith had raised $17,776 in online sales by Feb. 13, according to the Facebook group “I contributed to save the Doodle.” The group has been one of several key outlets for mustering alumni support for the burger joint.

Beckwith declined to comment on the future plans for a possible new restaurant, adding only that he is grateful for the support of alumni and the local community.

While several alumni interviewed expressed distrust in Beckwith after their experiences with online merchandise, they each reacted differently to the prospect of Beckwith running a new Yankee Doodle. All said they still long for the return of the Doodle’s culinary specialties — burgers and pigs in a blanket — but continue to doubt Beckwith’s ability to reopen the one-time New Haven institution.

“He obviously makes good burgers, but I think he took advantage of a lot of good faith in Yalies,” Moore said. “For that, I would not be interested in supporting any of his future business ventures.

Contact Raymond Carlson at raymond.carlson@yale.edu 

Comments

  • Pretty Annoyed

    Glad to hear I'm not the only one feeling ripped off. I'm still waiting for my $63 order. When I contacted Rick he said it had just been mailed (back in April), but clearly it hadn't. Bad addresses is just a lame excuse. I'm local and have the same simple suburban address which is clearly and correctly printed on the order form. I was trying to help and have piece of history. I wanted to support The Doodle but the taking money under false pretenses sure does leave a bad taste in my mouth.

  • BulldogROAR!

    Add another alum and former Doodle fan to the list of those who ordered merchandise, paid for it long ago and have not yet received either delivery or response to email requests.

  • Anonymous

    I ordered $40 worth of stuff in February, got a couple of apologetic e-mails from Rick in March while he said he was waiting for shipments from his suppliers.

    I e-mailed him again in June and July asking if something was up. No reply since then.

    -Ethan Prater CC '95

  • Malcolm Dickinson

    The article mentions that he sent me "the wrong merchandise" but omits that he sent several emails over the seven months between my payment and the shipment - each one falsely claiming to have shipped merchandise or falsely promising that it would be shipped soon. This is NOT simply a case of him getting behind - it is a long-running SCAM where he pretends to be selling merchandise while simply pocketing the cash he receives. A class action lawsuit is in order to stop this swindler.

  • alum '00

    So glad to hear I'm not the only one. I went to the Doodle daily and felt loyal to the family, and so I was seriously reluctant to press Rick about this: I let the back-and-forth go on for eight months before contacting PayPal, at which point it was of course too late for a refund. I'm disappointed and disillusioned, and I can't help but think that Rick is specifically and deliberately exploiting and defrauding loyal alumni.

  • john - nyc

    I'm not a Yale alum but I got stiffed on my Doodle merchandise order too . . . hum pretty shady. This taints my fond childhood memories of the Doodle. If Rick can't handle the merch maybe he shouldn't reopen the kitchen!

  • Malcolm Dickinson

    I've received the same sort of excuse emails as others - all are variations on "I sent it" or "It's back ordered" or "Tell me exactly what you ordered and I'll research it."

    Rick Beckwith's address, by the way, is PO Box 26413, West Haven CT 06516.)

    See also this follow up letter:
    http://www.yaledailynews.com/articles/view/24940

  • Disgusted New Haven Alum

    I too am amongst the robbed. I wish that I could say that I have received so much as an acknowledgement that my five emails were even read by Rick, but I firmly believe that he has no intent to deliver the goods, notwithstanding his claims in the New Haven Register. A family institution, corrupted by a bad bad seed. What a shame.