Foodstuffs: Polly's Pancake Parlor Re-Opens, But Not In The Same Old Shed

May 14, 2015

Polly and "Sugar Bill" Dexter opened Polly's Pancake Parlor in 1938.  That first year they served a few hundred customers in a carriage shed that sat 65.  Last year, in the same old shed, Polly's granddaughter Kathie Aldrich Cote and her husband Dennis, served nearly 60,000.  The Cote's realized it was time to tear the old shed down and build a new Polly's from the ground up.

Though he's looked everywhere, Dennis Cote can't seem to find his hammer.

"I've spent hours just looking for my hammer in this building."

This building, the brand new site of Polly's Pancake Parlor, is set to open in just a few days but the excavators are still excavating and the inspectors still inspecting.

"This is a very anxious point in my life right now.  I'm hearing excavators in my sleep."

"Hearing excavators in my sleep..." Dennis and Kathie Cote inside the new Polly's.
Credit Sean Hurley

Kathie Cote says tearing the old carriage shed down was the hardest business decision she and her husband ever had to make.

"We were paralyzed by hearing our customers say don't change a thing. That was the mantra we always heard. It's not everyone that takes their successful business and tears it down."

Polly's Before & Almost After

If you've ever gone to Polly's, you've likely had to wait. There are often more people standing outside the parlor than dining within. But it wasn't always that way. The big change came in 1983, when inclusion in a bestselling food and travel book led to national exposure on Good Morning America.

"As soon as it aired all the sudden these cars started driving up.  It was kind of like that from then on.
And you know it just kept growing exponentially. And then, you know, we just knew we had to do something cause we couldn't keep up."

While the new dining room will now seat a hundred, regular customers who've stopped by tell Dennis and Kathie that the camp porch feel of the old Polly's remains.

"And the first thing is they say is 'It's just like the old one only bigger.' And that's a wonderful feeling as that's just what we're after."

Dennis watches as his wife hangs battered old pancake signs on the new bare walls.

"She won't admit it but she is Polly's. She's the direct descendent of all of them. It's very matriarchal. Kathie does everything here. She does all the ordering. She does all the scheduling.  She cooks, she's a waitress. She knows everything about every aspect of this business."

With that, Dennis continues his search for the hammer.

"I don't know. I'm not gonna make any pancakes until I find my hammer.
That's like a wise saying."

Or if he can't find it, maybe just a riddle of the griddle as May 16th, hammer or no, Polly's Pancake Parlor will re-open for business.