Homemade Goods are Still a Hot Topic as Kennedy's Approaches 50th Anniversary
By Sonya Parry
Atlantic News, October 17, 1995
[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News.]
[Atlantic News Photo by Sonya Parry]
HAMPTON -- Donuts and coffee, donuts and milk, donuts and tea... Donuts and ice cream?
Homemade donuts and ice cream it is at Kennedy's Restaurant in Hampton, which will celebrate its 50th Anniversary in 1996.
"I've done ice cream from day one," said Bill Kennedy, a Hampton resident and founder and owner of Kennedy's Restaurant, which began on Cusak Road as an inn with a 200 seat dining room.
Day one was in 1946. It was then that Kennedy bought the Bushway Grill from the previous owner, who for a while held the mortgage to the restaurant while Kennedy payed on it. The name changed to Kennedy's in 1947, and has been so ever since.Kennedy's puts out 22-25 three gallon tubs of ice cream a day during the summer season. Bob McNeil, a Hampton resident, has been making the ice cream for the past 17 years, and produces about 24 different flavors during the summer.
"We were going to distribute it and sell it in pints and quarts," Kennedy said. However, because of the complicated requirements by the government regarding labels and seals, he wasn't able to market it. "There is a lot of legal work involved," he added, and showed a pint container complete with a lid printed with Kennedy's name. He still has several cases of the containers.
The donut business at Kennedy's has 'risen' quickly over the last seven years.
"We put out about 300 dozen a day," Kennedy said. Donut orders are shipped all over the state because of Service America and Service Republic. They take bids from companies and organizations for the donut orders and then call businesses like Kennedy's for service.
Raised donuts are made throughout the day, with the honey dipped donuts (made with real honey) being hung on wooden sticks.
"That's the old way," Kennedy said. "Now places use steel rods, but the rods get hot." Using the wooden sticks is not only a tradition, but also a safety precaution.
Kennedy's donuts are also still hand cut - no presses or guns.
Bob Burke, also a Hampton resident, runs the evening shift to make the cake donuts until about 9:00 p.m. The orders, some at several dozen each, are put up individually into large boxe.
The large boxes (there were 39), which hold six dozen donuts each, are lined up on a table against the wall and labeled with the name of the orderer. Other smaller boxes that hold three or one dozen donuts stood nearby for smaller, local orders.
"Those large boxes (the 39 against the wall) are only part of them," Kennedy said. Many places have boxes out, which will be returned when the new box arrives. This works as a continuous refill process.
Orders are kept on wall charts because they change daily, and the fresh donuts are tallied by the dozen as they come out of the kitchen.
Two trucks leave Kennedy's with the donut orders, one at midnight with orders travelling farther away to places like Dover and Rochester, and one at 3:00 a.m. with more local orders like Stratham and Kingston.
"I probably could have been making 600 dozen 20 or 30 years ago," Kennedy said. What hurt the donut business, he added, is the recent increase in health and fitness awareness. Donuts are taking a back seat to bagels and muffins partially due to the fat and cholesterol from frying.
"Thirty years ago, if you had a cup of coffee, you always had a donut," Kennedy said.
Glancing through three photo albums of Kennedy's history you'll find pieces not only of the restaurant's history, but of Kennedy himself. For four years, Kennedy had organized a Polar Bear Swim-In to benefit the Heart Fund. It grew so much that they eventually bused down to the main beach in Hampton for the swim. He also supported the Polar Bears in giving out heart shaped suckers around the square in town, also to benefit the Heart Fund.
"Anyone can look at the books," said Kennedy in reference to the albums, which are filled with pictures, menus and clippings. Also included are events from his military career.
Before entering the restaurant business, Kennedy was in the Navy in Korea where he painted backdrops for USO shows including such greats as Betty Hutton, Danny Kay and yes, even Bob Hope. Kennedy also painted walls and did other artwork for the Air Force. He was also in the Merchant Marines.
"I have to credit my cleanliness to the military," Kennedy said. As a ship's baker and cook, he learned to keep things sanitary and clean. "I'll invite anyone to see the line or lift up a table," he added. "How you feel about something is how you keep it kept," Kennedy said. "I love the business anyway, that's why I'm here."
Kennedy is dedicated to quality and feels that the public should get what they are looking for.
"Some people have lost sight of quality, which becomes a second seat to profit margins," Kennedy said, referring not just to the donut business. Convenience, he said, takes the place of quality.
"I keep a smaller profit margin in order to provide good quality," Kennedy noted, adding that with this, he has stayed in business a lot longer.
Because the business is privately owned and not a franchise, baking adjustments can be made in the kitchen. Specifically, Kennedy noted, he can do less or more if need be.
"I certainly appreciate, after all these years, that the public has supported me," Kennedy said, thanking patrons for being a part of his business. "A half century is a long time for people to support a business." The restaurant has, along with the summer crowd, many regular and loyal customers.
"That's what made it all happen," Kennedy concluded.
Kennedy's is located, as it has been since 1946, on the corner of High Street and Route 1-A in Hampton. The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch during the winter season, and is open all day in the summer.
[Atlantic News Photo by Sonya Parry]