After the newspaper articles last week, heralding the end to 44 years in business for the Family Buggy (which I knew as the Buggy Works when I was a child), the line has been out the door all day long at the Farmington Hills family restaurant.
We got there at 4:33 p.m. yesterday and stood at the back of the line, on the cobblestone floor meant to look like a 1900 street. There was the General Store facade, the barber shop fronting the restrooms and the lace-up boot-shoes in a curio display imitating an old-fashioned storefront. The plays-itself piano was worn with use.
An African-American woman rolled in an old lady in a wheelchair. “I’m behind those little girls,” the woman barked. “You go stand in line behind them and I’ll wait here.” She inched herself ahead with her feet.
A man walked in and peered skeptically at the long line. “Did you put your name down?” he asked.
“No names,” I said. “Just a line.”
“You’re behind me,” barked the old woman in the wheelchair.
The kids and I took bets about how long we’d wait. Everyone lost; the longest amount of time I bet was 20 minutes but we had 25 in line before being seated with ease.
At the front of the line another coiffured old lady was looking at the packed dining rooms. “I don’t have anyone waiting,” said the hostess, “but you’re welcome to look.”
The hostess noticed my children and made sure to seat us in the room where the model train ran along a track at the top of the wall. Old-time planes and hot-air balloons hung from the ceiling. In the other dining room, the 100-year-old bicycle, with its giant wheel in front, was mounted on the wall, just like when I was a kid.
When I went to the Buggy Works as a child, my siblings and I collected the tiny plastic animal figurines placed atop our ice cream scoops. My children got them yesterday, too. Christmas stockings with all the employees’ names covered two walls in the dining room where we sat. On the poster explaining the restaurant’s demise, they’d calculated that the 29 employees who’d been there since the start had worked a collective 545 years for this place.
I guess it’s appropriate that when a long-popular restaurant announces its closing, there should be a line out the door all week long. My poor grandmother, stuck in the rehab facility, can’t even have a final meal there, so we bought her the popular Marty Salad to take for lunch today.
But it’s a bittersweet sort of ending. Rumor has it that the landlord hiked up the rent so it’s not even possible for the owner to make ends meet. Whatever the reason, the Family Buggy was a place beloved by the young and the very old, for its simplicity, its throwback mentality and the way its staff were always friendly and kind, even with impatient patrons barking dismay at having to wait this last week.
If there’s this much love for a place when it’s about to disappear, where were all the fans when they needed to keep it going?