Gaylord’s oldest restaurant and one of the city’s most iconic businesses is temporarily closed after longtime owner Bob Doumas sold the Sugar Bowl and retired. As of 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15, the Sugar Bowl, located at 216 W. Main St., closed. It has been sold to a new organization. “It’s bittersweet,” said Doumas, 86. “It’s a plus for the city of Gaylord and Main Street. Because of my declining health, it’s tough to operate the restaurant at its peak.” The new operators of the restaurant are Willow Tree Restaurant and Chef’s Hospitality Group.
The Sugar Bowl was founded in 1919 by Bob’s father, George Doumas, along with George’s brother, Harry. The family’s story starts in 1901, when George left Greece as an 11-year-old. His travels took him to destinations such as New York, Kentucky and Mexico before eventually winding up in Gaylord.
George’s job was as a cabin boy on an ocean liner called Thermoclists, where he made two successful voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. He eventually decided to start a new living in America after accidentally soaking the ship’s captain while throwing out waste water.
When World War I started, George enlisted in the U.S. Army, to earn his citizenship in the United States, as a chef for a high-ranking general. Once the war ended, George spent time with his uncle working as a meat salesman in West Branch, where he learned about a candy store in Gaylord that was up for sale.
For $1,500, George bought the candy store, called the Sugar Bowl, and made it into the well-known restaurant in Gaylord that has existed for almost a century.
Ownership of the restaurant eventually went to Bob. Although he had a lot of fond memories associated with the restaurant, Bob has had one main regret — not being able to convince the city to install angle parking in front of his restaurant. Bob said one of his biggest beliefs in order to attract and keep customers is to make everything as easy and convenient for them as possible.
Bob said leaving the Sugar Bowl is bittersweet, but necessary considering how electronic advances have made operating a restaurant a more fast-paced business. “I’ve seen all these changes, and (the Sugar Bowl) has to grow. Now we have phones that say which restaurant has what kind of food and beer,” Bob said. “But I always say, a new broom always sweeps clean.”
Source: Shawl, Orrin, January 18, 2017; http://www.petoskeynews.com/featured-pnr/sugar-bowl-owner-reflects-on-nearly-years-of-family-business/article_89c438e8-a064-52c5-8479-6a4ed576ba40.html