Bess Eaton Donuts Takes on a Second Life in Three Shoreline Communities

The dream of a once-thriving business, being resurrected from its death, came true for three shoreline communities. For one of those shoreline communities, it meant a reopened business in a downtown pedestrian-friendly area that connects two towns together.

The smell of freshly brewed coffee, old fashioned blueberry muffins, and sugary donuts made a comeback when Bess Eaton Donuts reopened its doors.

The reopened business adds to the downtown Pawcatuck, CT/Westerly, RI area where folks walk between businesses and enjoy views of the Pawcatuck River.

Once a small chain with 42 locations through New England, it was a victim of a hostile takeover by Canadian-based Tim Horton’s in 2004. Ironically low sales volumes forced them to close those same stores along with many others only four years later. In all, Tim Horton’s abruptly pulled the plug on 34 restaurants in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Shuttered Tim Horton’s still plague the southern New England landscape along its many rural and suburban roadways.

However, its former stores in Pawcatuck as well as Westerly and Wakefield, R.I. are making the donuts once again.

Bess Eaton, originally founded more than 60 years ago, faces a much more competitive landscape in the coffee and donuts business but a recent visit proves that with excellent food and service they have what it takes.

Westerly, the founding town of Bess Eaton Donuts, now features both Dunkin’ Donuts and Honey Dew Donuts.

I visited the downtown Pawcatuck location twice. While parking is at a minimum, a steady crowd comes in to order food and beverages to enjoy in the dining room while others order to-go or use the drive-thru window.

Unlike Dunkin’ Donuts, Bess Eaton has a larger variety of fresh baked goods available all day and all of the employees are eager to fill your order and answer your questions.

On my last visit, types of muffins included blueberry, low-fat blueberry, corn, double berry, raisin nut bran, and chocolate chunk.

Although the size of their muffins is smaller than Dunkin’ Donuts, they taste much fresher and delicious.

Bess Eaton claims it’s the same delicious original recipes as before. After trying out both the coffee rolls and the blueberry muffins, I completely agree.

Other baked goods include croissants, glazed sticks, glazed twists, chocolate glazed donuts, rainbow sprinkle donuts, chocolate sprinkle donuts, Boston Cremes, glazed cake donuts, and plain donuts.

Coffee flavors are limited to Hazelnut and French Vanilla, however. While I enjoyed the French Vanilla hot coffee with cream and sugar, the iced drink tasted a bit too sweet; perhaps because it had too much sugar.

Those who want to pair up their coffee with a treat can take advantage of one of the special value menus.

Customers can order two donuts with a medium coffee for $3.19 or make it a large coffee for 30 cents more.

Rather than donuts, you can get a muffin combination for $2.79, a bagel with cream cheese for $3.49, a breakfast sandwich with meat for $4.39, a garden vegetable egg white on flatbread for $3.99, or a pastry for $2.99.

The coffee prices are cheaper than Dunkin’ Donuts with a small coffee costing $1.39, a medium costing $1.79, and a large costing $1.99.

For those who enjoy other beverages, Bess Eaton offers tea in the breakfast, regular, and decaf varieties for the same prices as coffee.

Lattes with flavored, regular, and decaf varieties are available as well as espresso cappuccinos with a small costing $2.09, a medium costing $2.59 and a large costing $2.99.

Small mocha lattes cost $2.29, a medium is $2.79, and a large is $3.19.

With the summer heat, many will turn to the delicious iced cold options. Bess Eaton has always been known for The Tank, a large insulated 32 ounce container for iced beverages. It is much larger than Tim Horton’s largest iced coffee size which is only 16 ounces.

Iced coffee, whether it be regular, decaf, or flavored costs $1.89 for a small, $2.19 for a medium, and $2.39 for The Tank.

Iced lattes and flavored iced lattes cost $2.49, $2.99, and $3.49.

Iced mocha lattes are available for $2.69, $3.19, and $3.69.

While the chain used to have Bible verses printed on its coffee cups and napkins, I failed to see this on my visits to the Pawcatuck location.

Previously owner Louis Gencarelli had the words “Christ is the Answer” mounted on company headquarters. He received praise and criticism for giving out literature regarding his turn to religion after dealing with alcoholism.

The restaurants do have familiar faces with over half of the employees at its three stores being either former Bess Eaton workers or those who worked for Tim Horton’s.

The Pawcatuck location is at 25 Broad Street while the Westerly location is at 127 High Street and the Wakefield location is at 621 Kingstown Road.

All three locations are open 7 days from to 10 p.m. but plans are in the works to have them extend their hours to be open 24-hours all 7 days.

Bess Eaton is expected to reopen the Coldstone Creamery ice cream and Blimpie lunch sandwiches previously located in Tim Horton’s. Bess Eaton officials plan to open additional locations.

Sources Used:

Grimaldi, Paul. “R.I. group plans to re-launch Bess Eaton Coffee Shop Chain”. The Providence Journal. 4/23/11.

Faulkner, Dale P. “Bess Eaton Rises Again.” The Westerly Sun. 3/11/11.

Souza, Michael. “Pawcatuck Bess Eaton Opening Early Sunday; Westerly Shop on Monday.” The Westerly Sun. 4/2/11., Westerly, RI.

McKiernan, Kathleen. “‘The Tank’ is Back: Bess Eaton Returns to Wakefield.” SRIN. Southern Rhode Island Newspapers. RI Central. 4/1/11.