Thursday, May 23, 2013
WESTBROOK — Don's Lunch Van is now under old management.
Gerri Richards displays a special, as she and her family, who are the original owners of Don’s Lunch Van in Westbrook, reopen Tuesday. Don’s was closed for the past couple of weeks during the transition of ownership.
Photos by John Patriquin/Staff Photographer
Jim Richards puts onions on a cheeseburger for Sean Bearor of Limerick on Tuesday. Bearor and his wife, Jessica, try to eat at Don’s whenever they drive through Westbrook. “If it’s open, we stop,” he said.
The food truck was bought recently by Jim Richards, the only son of the original owners, Don and Yvonne Richards, who ran the business for 25 years.
Don's was closed for the past couple of weeks, during the transition of ownership from Bill Bombard, who bought the business from the Richards family 11 years ago.
Hamburgers hit the grill again Tuesday for the grand reopening.
The Richardses first opened the food truck in 1976.
Don Richards, who died in 2004, was a supermarket meat manager when he "decided he wanted to be his own boss," his wife said.
So the couple bought a box truck from the owner of Rapid Ray's in Saco, who had upgraded his mobile burger joint to a newer vehicle.
They modeled their business after Rapid Ray's – right down to calling their double cheeseburger the Big One – and, said Yvonne Richards, it was "very successful."
The Richardses originally ran their van out of the parking lot at The Muffler Shop on the west end of Main Street. When the shop closed for the day, Don's would open.
They flipped burgers and fried onions until 2 or 3 a.m., serving the bar crowd after closing time and the late-shift workers from the S.D. Warren paper mill.
"Everybody knew Don's Lunch. Everybody ate at Don's Lunch," said Jessica Bearor, who grew up around the corner and was among the first customers Tuesday.
She and her husband, who live in Limerick, try to eat at Don's whenever they drive through Westbrook.
"If it's open, we stop," said Sean Bearor.
When the Richardses were ready to retire just over a decade ago, their son and his wife had young children and didn't think it was the right time to take over the food truck.
The beige GMC van – the third vehicle to house the business – was sold to Bombard, who moved it to a parking lot on the other end of Main Street, where it remains.
Jim Richards, who was laid off from National Semiconductor a few years ago, had recently been driving a school bus for the city of Portland.
When he found out that Bombard wanted to sell Don's Lunch, he made the not-so-difficult decision to quit his job and take the family businesses back.
His youngest child is now 16, and all three of his kids plan to work for him, just as he did for his parents.
Don's Lunch Van will open at 11 a.m. every day but Sunday, and will stay open until midnight Monday through Wednesday and until 2 a.m. the rest of the week.
On Tuesday, a sign hung on the side of the van asking customers for patience as the new workers got the hang of their jobs.
Cardboard boxes were lined up on the counter, ready to be filled with burgers, hot dogs, onion rings and fries.
When asked how things were going after the food truck's first hour back in business, Richards said, "I'm sweating, so I think it's good."
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: email@example.com
click image to enlarge
Christopher Vincent, 11, Amber Richards, 16, and Brianna Barlow, 15, catch the attention of passing motorists as the Richards family, who are original owners of Don’s Lunch Van in Westbrook, reopen the Main Street business Tuesday. The van was modeled after Rapid Ray’s in Saco.