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.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org