The Doo Wop era ends in Malden

The beloved themed diner changes hands and leaves the 50s

The weathered exterior of the Doo Wop Diner on Main Street in Malden belied the vibrancy within the establishment for 32 years. Photo by Anne D'Urso-Rose

By Sharon Santillo

Larry Williams, who grew up in Somerville, originally had an interior design business but thought he would try his hand in the food industry. His first restaurant was in Beverly, but he saw a business for sale in Malden, property included. The thought of not paying rent clinched the deal. 

In 1991, he opened the Doo Wop Diner at 269 Main St. “My grandfather loved to sing Doo Wop. That was his inspiration,” reported his granddaughter, Caitlin McLaughlin. The diner became a Malden institution. 

Now, after 32 years, the Doo Wop has changed ownership.  

The interior of the Doo Wop reflects 1950s and 1960s motifs. Framed black and white posters of ’50s movie and music stars on the tiled walls set off the black, white, and red décor.  Photos by Caitlin McLaughlin.

The first years of the Doo Wop were hard, but Larry’s wife Evelyn, his partner in business and life, urged him to hang on a bit longer. When the Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Wellington Circle closed the last day of 1998, much of that breakfast business came over to the Doo Wop and there was no looking back. 

Williams credits all his family for the business’s success. He and his oldest son, Larry Jr., had fun together creating the ’50s-themed menu. Their “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” corned beef hash even had write-ups in the Boston Globe. Regulars to the Doo Wop will recall all the egg dishes under “Break It To Me Gently,” including “The Chubby Cheddar,” “I Want to Hold Your Ham and Cheese,” and “The Ted Williams” grand slam breakfast which included two of everything. And who could forget “Aunt Bea’s Mayberry Pancakes,” “The Last Train to Belgian Waffles,” and “Hot Rod Sandwiches.”

His staff included his youngest son, Stephen Williams, and two employees who became family: Juan Escobar, originally from El Salvador who has been with the Doo Wop for 25 years, and the late Nancy Reno. “Well, I could not have done it without them,” Williams said.

“I loved the place. The customers were always great. I did not raise prices as I should have because I knew many could not afford that. Many customers became friends and I would give them a free breakfast on their birthday. I did that a lot. So many good customers have passed away.”

The low point of his life came on Nov. 18, 2020, when Williams lost his wife of 58 years. He knew it was time to sell despite the emotional difficulties that came with the decision.

His message to Malden: “Thank you for standing by me. You are very special. A big hug and kiss from Mr. Williams.”

The Doo Wop has been purchased by restauranteur George Athanasopoulos, who closed his Allston location to move to Malden. Look for a new name soon, The Breakfast Club; the new menu and hours are already in place, 6am-2pm weekdays and 7am-2pm weekends.

(Left to right) Emily Lowe, Juan Escobar, Maria Trio, Mayor Gary Christenson with a chocolate chip Mickey Mouse pancake, Larry Williams, and Scott Wilson

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