By Mike Bisceglia
Seacoast Scene, Wednesday, April 14, 2010
[The following article is courtesy of Seacoast Scene.]
Since 1991, Pam and Gary Provencher have welcomed breakfast and lunch diners with smiles, warmth, and absolutely scrumptious meals. "We want to make and keep our customers," said Gary, "and we want our customers to be our friends." The Provenchers have been doing very well in that regard.
Many of their occasional customers have become regulars, and many of the regulars have brought in their own personal coffee mugs. How's that for feeling right at home? Homegrown residents, Pam is a native of Hampton. Gary hails from Seabrook. Both graduated from Winnacunnet High School in 1977 but really didn't know each other until they met at a dance at Hampton Beach.
"Six months later, we were married," Pam said, smiling. "I don't think we could be happier." Gary nodded his agreement. Gary learned the craft of food preparation as a boy working at Brown's Lobster Pound and then at the Galley Hatch. Pam gained her business skills working at EBPA Insurance. Together, they form a perfect working combination. "We have a great business, but we couldn't do it alone," Pam said. "Over the years, our parents, aunts, uncles, and kids have all gotten into the act." "And we can't forget our customers," said Gary. "More than once, when we run out of something, our customers will make a mad dash to the store to get what we need. We love them, and several have come to work for us. Amanda is a good example." Amanda Carey, customer turned waitress, started coming by nearly five years ago. "I just fell in love with the place and everybody in it. Hoaty's is a lot like Cheers. There's always a good laugh, and everybody knows your name." How much does Amanda enjoy her job? "I travel an hour and half to get here. Now, what does that tell you?"
A Hoaty's mainstay is Shirley MacDonald. "She came with the business," said Gary with a chuckle, "and we're glad she did. She loves the customers, and they absolutely love her. Her being here is a win-win for everyone."
One item that didn't last nearly as long as Shirley was the Chew-Chew Express. "We used to have an electric train that would run around the restaurant close to the ceiling. The kids loved it. But, like everything mechanical, it kept breaking down. We kept shortening the track and the train until it eventually disappeared. Some of our patrons from years past still come in asking about it. Who knows, maybe the Chew-Chew may ride the rails again," laughed Pam.
The pig decor is courtesy of the original owner, John Houghton. "He collected pig cookie jars," said Pam, "Soon, pig everything started to arrive in the place. In short order, the pig became our symbol. We even sell t-shirts and coffee cups with you-know-whats all over them."
Kids love their time at Hoaty's, and the huge framed collage of hundreds of kid patrons proves it. "Adults now, they come in and can't believe they looked like that as kids," Gary chuckled. "We called the kids our piglets. Everybody had a laugh over that."
The Provenchers have developed a unique way of remembering their faithful customers, both living and deceased. Pink pigs bearing such names as "Dashing Don", "Colorful Claire", "Hillbilly Hank", and "Naive Norm" adorn the area above the grill. The pigs currently spell out the regional war cry, "GO RED SOX!" The phrase changes with the sport in season at the time.
And do local athletes support Hoaty's? You bet. If you're lucky, you may bump into Bruins stars Rick Middleton or Ken Lindsman polishing off a "Mom Would Be Proud." You might stop by for a coffee and find yourself sitting next to New England Pats great John Hanna wolfing down a McHoaty's Sandwich. You might even be sitting across from seacoast wrestling star Brian Day while he slathers butter on his buttermilk pancakes.
"In recent years our wintertime Tuesday Soup Nights have become tremendous events." Gary said proudly. "We have about 19 that we rotate through. Some of customer favorites are: lobster stew, cream of buttermilk, and the spicy Irish favorite, Mulligatawny."
When asked about how busy Hoaty's is, Gary put it this way. "Well, we go through 120 to 200 dozen eggs a week and about 30 pots of coffee daily. That's pretty busy, wouldn't you say?"
I found Portsmouth Symphony violinist Lorraine Raleigh and her computer whiz husband, John polishing off their second cups of coffee after downing their standard French Toast breakfast. When asked about their Hoaty's dining experience, they said (almost in unison), "This has been a weekly date for us for nearly 30 years. Furthermore, we have sampled French Toast from coast to coast, and nobody does it better than right here. You can take our word for it." I have, and you're right!