SAUGUS — After nearly three decades of serving up fresh haddock, boneless buffalo wings, and other customer favorites, Spud’s Restaurant & Pub in Saugus is closing.
“We’re very thankful to the community,” said owner Bruce Spaulding, who told The Item Monday afternoon that he plans to close the family-owned business by the end of the month. “We love Saugus and Lynn and I can’t say enough about the staff. We have some (people) that have been with us for 10, 20, and even 30 years.”
Spaulding first announced the restaurant would be closed on Mondays starting on June 11. But changing economy, lagging sales, and his age has left him with little choice but to close for good.
“When we first opened, we were busier here than the other two locations combined,” said Spaulding. “Our second night open we sold 400 bottles of Budweiser.”
Spaulding believes cuts at GE Aviation in Lynn made an impact on business and the overall economy of the area.
The Rowley location, the last remaining of five Spud’s Restaurants, is thriving and will remain open, he said. At one time, there were restaurants in Danvers, Rowley, Saugus, Woburn, and North Hampton, N.H.
Spaulding plans to sell the half-acre property, assessed at $749,700 in 2018, once the business is closed. Tater Management Corp., owned by Spaulding, also owns 36 Lincoln Ave., a 10,000-square-foot parking lot valued at $142,200. The lot is used for overflow parking.
He has had conversations with a restaurant broker, but no deal has been reached.
Contrary to popular belief, Spud’s is not named after a potato.
The long-standing family restaurant is named after Bruce Spaulding’s father, Richard Spaulding, who opened the first restaurant in Danvers in 1984.
“His nickname in the Navy was Spud, short for Spaulding,” said Bruce Spaulding.
After returning from his stint with the Navy, the Topsfield native got a job at Cal’s, a restaurant in downtown Danvers. Months later, he tried to quit. He wanted to move on to something different, said Bruce Spaulding, but the owner of Cal’s offered to sell him the business.
Soon what would become the new Danvers hot spot, Spaulding’s Restaurant, opened its doors.
“That’s where I grew up, learning how to work in a restaurant,” said Bruce Spaulding.
His father owned Spaulding’s Restaurant with his mother, Alberta, for about three decades starting in the 1950s. The business moved to Endicott Street in Danvers in 1984 and the name was shortened to Spud’s.
The Rowley location was opened in 1985, followed by Saugus in 1989, and North Hampton and Woburn in 1990 and 1991.
At one time, Bruce Spaulding and his brothers Scott and Richard, Jr. all had a hand in the family business. From start to finish, Spud’s has been family owned and operated.
Richard Spaulding purchased the former Heck Allen’s property in Saugus from Stella Allen, who owned the restaurant with her husband Ashton “Heck” Allen for more than 30 years. Heck Allen was a lobsterman for most of his life and took a risk by opening a seafood restaurant in the early 1950s, according to a June 1985 edition of The Item.
The small waterfront spot was known best for its fried seafood, steak, and boiled dinner.
After her husband’s death, it was reported that Stella Allen made the difficult decision to sell because she had no family members who wanted to continue with the family business and retirement was calling her name.
A family restaurant
More so than the many loyal customers who show up monthly, weekly, and even daily for their favorite menu items, many Spud’s employees became like family as years went by.
Saugus General Manager Donna Eldridge has been with the company for three decades. Jay and Mary-Ellen Prushinski joined the Spud’s family when the Saugus property was purchased. The husband and wife previously worked at Heck Allen’s. Their 19-year-old daughter has since joined the team.
“Over the years, we’ve had second-generation employees,” said Bruce Spaulding. “The first time it happened was in Danvers. I remember when she was born and then all the sudden she was 18 and working with us.”
Bruce Spaulding said that of all the company’s accomplishments, he’s most proud of the work his staff has done to help others. Each year on Thanksgiving, many employees and their families have volunteered their time to cook dinner for those in need.
The nearly 30-year tradition provided more than 20,000 turkey dinners, complete with all of the fixings, to clients of Greater Lynn Senior Services and Meals on Wheels in Lynn and Saugus.
About a third of the Saugus employees are part time, and some of the full timers will move to the Rowley restaurant, said Bruce Spaulding, but many have already left to find other jobs.
“People are saying hurry up and get the boneless buffalo wings while you still can, but they can still get them in Rowley,” said Bruce Spaulding.
Gift certificates, no matter how old, will also be accepted at the Rowley Restaurant.