It’s official; Bess Eaton is coming back.
And it’s fitting, some might say, that the sign that confirms the much-beloved doughnut shop's return on Oak Street in Westerly and West Broad Street in downtown Pawcatuck is just down the block from the old Gencarelli house kitchen where Angelo “Bangy” Gencarelli and his wife Burnie started the business in the late 1940s.
In 1952 the family opened their first shop, then called Southern Maid, and over the years built the business so that by the late 1990s nearly 50 Bess Eaton shops were in Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
But in 2004, under the ownership and direction of son Louis A. Gencarelli, the business went bankrupt in a high-profile federal action that played out on front pages from Boston to New York. That led to an international bidding war with Canada-based Tim Hortons beating out Dunkin’ Donuts and others to purchase the business for $41.6 million.
All the Tim Hortons shops closed earlier this year, leaving vacant doughnut shops across three states. But in late January, David Liguori of 1 Hamilton Road in Westerly filed incorporation papers with the Rhode Isand Secretary of the State for Bess Eaton Management LLC. It is unclear what, if any, relationship Liguori’s corporation has with Gencarelli.
It was also unclear Saturday if Bess Eaton will return to all the closed Tim Hortons locations in New London County. A former Tim Hortons in South Kingstown, RI was issued a license to operate a baked goods shop under the name Bess Eaton recently by the Town Council there according to town documents.
Calls to Liguori for comment were not immediately returned.