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Hedy Watrous’s grandparents, Ed (pictured) and Lucy Goff, opened the Whistle Stop Café in 1932. After the café had some changes in location and ownership, Watrous returned to Deep River and recently celebrated 25 years under her ownership at 108 Main Street. (Photo courtesy of Hedy Watrous )
Marking her 25th anniversary as the owner and chef at the Whistle Stop Café in Deep River, Hedy Watrous said she feels lucky to have been able to have this experience and share this life with her family.
“This great little place has allowed me to do so many wonderful things and meet so many wonderful people, I really live a blessed life and I am lucky,” said Watrous.
Watrous has carved a niche in the breakfast world by focusing as much on ingredients as their preparation. She likens eating three meals a day to medicating yourself three times daily.
“It matters what we put in our bodies, so I am mostly organic here,” Watrous explains. “When you come here, it’s like going to your grandmother’s house to eat. We don’t open cans to feed you, we cook real food.”
Watrous’s references to grandparents is fitting, since hers ran the café almost a century ago.
“My grandfather told me stories of rationing that made running a restaurant nearly impossible at the time. He said that one day a businessman came in for dinner asking for a pork chop. This meant that my grandfather needed to use his family’s food ration coupons, because fresh pork was very dear at the time. Grandpa ran out the back door to the market and a short time later the chop was served up, for a very expensive blue plate special,” Watrous recalled.
Nowadays, the Whistle Stop is a bustling small café, just one third the size of the original restaurant. Watrous became the owner when she moved back to the area to care for aging family members. A serendipitous question she asked one day about the place ever being for sale ended with the restaurant once again being in the family.
Twenty five years later, Watrous said she is still loving the energy of the business. She has parlayed the café into a way to give back on a global level. She raises funds each season through her Dinners for Charity program, then, during winter break, she travels, doing good deeds with the chosen organization.
She has helped complete clean water projects all over the world and this year has plans and a plane ticket ready to head to Burma and Laos to work with Doctors without Borders.
She started the charity work in 2004 in effort to help tsunami victims.
“It was amazing, nobody knew what to do, but it felt good to do something,” said Watrous.
She hopes to continue her good deeds and to keep “the little restaurant that could” in her family for at least another generation and another 25 years.
“My daughter is graduating from medical school next year and she has said she wants to take the business over. I am thrilled” said Watrous. “This place means the world to me and it really has been a privilege being here for the past 25 years.”