If you find yourself in the warm, homey confines of Doody’s Totoket Inn, raise your glass – whether it be slushing of brandy, wine or Coke – and make a toast in homage to John and Bill Doody, the first owners of the inn.
“At the end of Prohibition, they decided to open a restaurant,” says current owner John Doody of his two great-uncles. Before opening the inn, John and Bill were turkey farmers who owned a house next door to the site, Doody says.
“They built [the inn] as a cake-style house,” he says. “If Prohibition came back, they could turn it into a house.”
But after the 21st Amendment’s repeal of the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the manufacture, sale or transportation of alcoholic liquors, on Dec. 5 1933, Prohibition did not come back.
And for the last 76 years, Doody’s has been passed down the family tree, ending up on John Doody’s limb in 1989. Doody, a 1976 North Branford High School grad, runs the inn with his sister Susan Duhamel, an NBHS alumna of the class of '78.
“We have a lot of fun,” Doody says. “We love the customers; what better town can you be in.”
Doody, 52, says over the years as a bartender he’s seen generations of families grow.
He brings up the case of the Hart family.
The Harts were mechanics who owned a yellow garage near the old Jerome Harrison Elementary School, Doody says, and during the late 1980s, the father and son would come in often. Doody says after the garage was knocked down with the construction of the new Jerome Harrison, the father – who was by this time a grandfather – retired, and the son – who had his own son – went to work for the U.S. Postal Service.
Today, the grandson of Grandfather Hart works in the North Branford school system, Doody says.
It is this closeness to his customers that Doody says is the best part of his job.
“The people, my customers, is what I like most about going into work,” he says.
Although Doody started helping his mom and dad out at the inn at 12 years old – “cooking, cleaning, mainly cleaning,” he jokes – and worked there on and off throughout high school, after graduating college, he spent 12 years working for Amtrak configuring track routes in the Northeast.
Doody says he was summoned back to the family business in the late 1980s because the inn was short on staff and wanted to expand.
“We wanted to expand the business more to dinners,” he says. “We were already doing lunch.”
Doody left his Amtrak job and joined his sister at the inn. “With Amtrak, I was traveling all over the Northeast,” Doody says. Coming back to North Branford, he found himself “in the same place every day,” he says.
But the inn was plenty busy, even if Doody was only moving his feet a few paces left and a few paces right.
Over the years, the inn’s burgeoning popularity has resulted in seven additions since it first opened on Dec. 31, 1934, Doody says. He says the latest addition was the patio a couple years ago. There are no preliminary plans for further renovation, but additions come with the demand, Doody says.