THAT HITS THE SPOT!

ONCE THIS RESTAURANT BATTLED HIPPIES. NOW IT'S THE COUNTER-CULTURE'S LAST STAND.

With young Tony at the helm, White Spot began catering to a cooler crowd. One vintage Sixties advertisement, featuring a young couple in Carnaby Street regalia, spouted this copy: "Swinging night people know that White Spot is the `in' place to end an evening. White Spot has it, whether you dig a super dooper Chocolate Sundae for only 55 cents or turn on to a Choice Sirloin Steak breakfast."

Times were heady. "Everybody but everybody eats at White Spot," according to the slogan that sprawled across the bottom of the newspaper comic pages each day. Denver Post writer Barry Morrison peppered his "Denver After Dark" column with plugs for the place.

From one New Year's Eve roundup: "Why not a beddie-bye snack at one of the nine White Spots so that you'll feel less unglued in the morning?" Another Seventies item: "White Spot has been named for their Chuck-O-Melt sandwich in the magazine Cooking for Profit, sharing billing with the Waldorf Astoria."

"We were lucky in a lot of ways," Tony says. "We only had three or four holdups in all those years, and one was with a squirt gun."

One night near the White Spot at Colfax and Harrison, an elderly man approached two beat cops to report that he'd been robbed by two youths. The three repaired to the White Spot to fill out paperwork and there discovered the two young stickup men snacking.

White Spot's luck held until the early Eighties.
"And then," Tony says, "well, you tell me. The economy fell apart. Construction fell apart. No construction workers came in for coffee." Neither did oilmen or real estate developers.

The pinch had begun, and the pressure only increased with the huge inheritance taxes that came with Ruby Clements's death in 1982. There was nothing for Tony to do but consolidate. Over the next ten years, the eight locations dwindled to just two: 800 Broadway and Colfax and Harrison.

Along the way Tony pared his staff down to lifers, people like waitress Aggie Garlington, who had decades of seniority. "This place is an institution of nice people," Aggie says. "It's my second home. I've worked here every Christmas and every holiday for 25 years. Management is wonderful. They didn't never bother me."

Tony returns the odd compliment. "I'm lucky to have had a certain amount of failure," he says. "The people who surround me now are the absolute best."

Like Kit Porter, who started work at the Colfax and Speer White Spot twenty years ago, when she was sixteen. Now she manages 800 Broadway, arriving at four in the morning and staying almost twelve hours, taking a break only when husband Bob joins her at the counter for several cups of coffee.

Then there's Debbie Norman, who went from high school to the Colfax and Harrison White Spot in 1977 and has waited tables ever since. "A good waitress has the friendliness and the attentiveness," she says. "I'm cut out for it."

Like Aggie, Debbie has never missed a single Christmas shift, and she looks blank when anyone suggests she might want it otherwise. She has never thought about whether she gets regular raises, she says, and she remembers something about medical benefits but never signed up for them. She's far more concerned about the whereabouts of her regulars, most of whom she hasn't seen since the Colfax and Harrison White Spot finally closed last month.

"It's like leaving school," she worries. "You miss them. A lot of them are older, and you wonder if they've died. I mean, one man and his wife, who came in for who knows how long, and then...they both just passed. A lot of my regulars, I wonder if I'll ever see them again. I wonder how they are."

Then, out of the corner of her eye, Debbie sees a familiar car pull up in the parking lot at 800 Broadway. She takes out her order pad. "It's him," she explains. "A regular. He eats the same thing every day."

It is Pork Tenderloin Day. Tony is wearing a Hawaiian shirt, gray suit pants, a chain-drive wallet and an ever-so-slightly intrigued expression. Not one to stare, he is still fascinated by the latest couple to come in and occupy a booth. He: fifties, besuited, big stomach, Camels. She: twenties, beautifully blond, very made-up, nervous.

"Is he her dad?" Tony asks himself. "Nope. She's cooing at him. Does she want money? No," he reminds himself, "just because she's a beautiful woman doesn't mean she wants money."

She apparently doesn't want pork tenderloin, either, although it is the special of the day. The other, unadvertised special is the Hawaiian shirt. "Why the Hawaiian shirt? Because everybody's supposed to wear a Hawaiian shirt," Tony says. "Why aren't you wearing one?"

Indeed, Aggie, Debbie and Kit are all wearing reasonable approximations, as are many of the customers. "Look at all the variety," Tony says, surveying the regulars. "I recognize over half of them. A mechanic. Two corporate lawyers. A stockbroker. An electrician, and never mind where he works, he shouldn't be here in the first place.

"When I was trying to be rich and famous, I spent a lot of time driving back and forth between the restaurants and managing, but what I really like is to work in a restaurant."

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Loading...