In the 1940’s a man named Leslie Beebe opened a restaurant in Norwich called Beebe’s Dairy. His family was in the dairy business and delivered milk door-to-door. They were known for banana splits, hot dogs, and extra-thick milkshakes. Beebe eventually sold the business and after trading hands a few times, the BeeBe propriety was acquired by Dino Pappas in 1963.
Pappas, who also bought Butler’s Restaurant in Mansfield, opened up shop in the new Norwichtown mall. He put his own stamp on the business by renaming the restaurants, Bee Bee Dairy, reflecting the “B” in each restaurant’s name. Pappas’ wife created the classic cartoon bee sipping a milkshake logo. Their menu format involved breakfast served all day and family friendly offerings like burgers, club sandwiches, and the classic “Bee Bee Furter:” a footlong hot dog in a grilled bun topped with American cheese and a slice of bacon.
Eventually day-to-day operations were turned over to Dino’s sons, Peter and Christopher. Through the 70’s and 80’s the chain expanded from Norwich into Waterford, East Lyme, Groton, Mystic, and Westerly. At one point, there was even a store in St. Croix, Virgin Islands. During that time, Bee Bee’s became a beloved regional institution where young and old could gather for simple, affordable food and conversation with family and friends.
In 2000 the brother’s sold the Bee Bee Dairy chain to a Florida businessman who had also purchased Newport Creamery. The deal went sour and in June of 2001, Newport Creamery filed for bankruptcy taking Bee Bee Dairy down with it. However, that would not be the end of story for Bee Bee Dairy. Citing “an unfair ending,” in December of that year, Christopher Pappas re-acquired the name and equipment and re-opened the store at the original location in the Norwichtown Mall. According to an article in the New London Day at the time, he was quoted as saying “I didn’t want the Bee Bee name to just fade away.” The last remaining Bee Bee Dairy thrived for five years, delighting customers in Norwich by serving all-day breakfast, family fare, and ice cream until the Norwichtown Mall was re-developed in 2006 when the store closed and Pappas retired for good. Will there be another chapter for Bee Bee Dairy? Only time will tell…