Restaurants & Bars

BUZZY'S - the true story

Buzzy2 | Aug 10, 200606:38 PM     3

This is in response to the topic started by Polecat recently that has been closed to new replies.

I bought Buzzy's in the late 1990's after it had gone into bankruptcy. It had opened in the '60's, and I had been an infrequent but consistent customer for a decade or more.

We did some research, and we found that the site had been a parking lot in the 50's, which was probably the last business on that property prior to the creation of Buzzy's.

Prior to the reopening, I contacted the original owner and managed to get him to visit the restaurant. His stories, whether true or false, were great. I can only relate some of them here, but he had dozens of them. I remember his mentioning that Buzzy's food was frequently thrown over the wall of the jail, but I can't recall if he said that it was only coming from Buzzy's side or if it was also being returned by disappointed inmates.

Apparently he grew up in the Boston area. He told me that he earned the nickname Buzzy as a young child because he was always buzzing around the house with unlimited energy.

He opened the restaurant in the 60's and kept it, I believe, until the end of the 70's or the early 80's. Jay Leno, who to this day still mentions Buzzy's from time to time, used to go there after work in the Combat Zone, as did a lot of radio and TV personalities, restaurant and bar employees, and a myriad of colorful personalities. Late on a Friday or Saturday night, there was always a huge crowd of people socializing outside of Buzzy's. I even heard about couples meeting there and eventually getting married (someplace else.)

Buzzy sold the restaurant during a strong real estate market and retired to Hawaii. The buyer had recently come to America with enough money to invest in real estate and businesses. Some of the most popular items on the menu, such as the knishes, were the old family recipe of the woman that worked there, possibly the owner's wife. I was told that when the real estate market slowed, he lost a lot of money and eventually was unable to pay taxes on the business. That was when it was closed down, perhaps in 1996.

Buzzy's was auctioned by the government to pay back taxes, which is when I picked it up.

I had lived in Boston all my life, and I was familiar with Buzzy's and partial to our Boston variety of Roast Beef sandwiches. I noticed that it was closed when I drove by one day and saw the bankruptcy sign, so I decided to see if I could purchase it. I wanted to save it from the bulldozer. As it turned out, about a year later, I found that I was the high bidder at the bankruptcy auction.

When we first set foot in the building, the condition was not only poor, but probably dangerous. Thankfully the CDC didn't come by or they might have forced me to torch the place. We hired a demolition company to remove all of the old and rotting equipment and material. They refused to enter the building until we had it disinfected by steam cleaners. It really was that bad!

As it turned out, we had to completely replace almost all of the building. I wanted to maintain the look of the place, so everything had to be rebuilt with the old image in mind. We even added an indoor, heated seating section in the same style. I remembered standing in line on cold winter nights waiting for my food and I wanted to make life a bit easier for our new customers.

When it was done, it looked great. The kitchen was brand new, but the building itself was retro. Where we were missing peeling paint and holes in the walls we painted them in. I loved the old image, but I also wanted to keep the Health Department from closing us down.

Being a foodie, I insisted that all of our major menu items be cooked fresh. We cooked our roast beef ourselves. The same with the turkey. We made our onion rings and French fries fresh, and spent months perfecting the techniques. I have to admit that to me, these were the best French fries and onion rings around. We took the extra time to double cook the fries the way the best European fries (frites) are made. Everything was more expensive and slower that way, especially when compared to the common frozen product found elsewhere, but this was about quality for me. In addition, I wanted Buzzy's to be open 24 hours a day.

Eventually we opened a second restaurant in Central Square, Cambridge.

Not being a restauranteur, I'm afraid that I depended on others to run the business. My expertise was in technology and computing. In retrospect, I would tell anyone that wants to own a sandwich joint to avoid it unless they are willing to put in the time. We also found ourselves confronted by regulations that made it difficult if not impossible to sell warm rare roast beef.

MGH eventually made me an offer that I couldn't refuse, and they are in the process of finishing the development of their new campus. As I understand it, the land that Buzzy's was on will be the entryway to their new buildings, including a hotel that is being built using the old City Jail as the lobby.

I would like to see Buzzy's resurrected again by those that are qualified to run a successful restaurant. I approached Aramark, the company that runs the concessions at Fenway Park, because it seems as if Buzzy's would be perfect there. They never returned my calls. Perhaps Buzzy's will return to Boston, but if so, it will need a better manager than myself.

Polecat - you mentioned retiring in Florida. As I explained, Buzzy retired to Hawaii. I spend a lot of my time in MA and FL.

I hope that this answers a lot of your questions.

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