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Order up: Bradley’s Pizza bids farewell after 39 years in business

  • Justin Malcolm, son of Bradley’s Pizza owner Dave Malcolm, rings out a to-go order on the last day of business Thursday in Boscawen. The iconic pizza shop closed after 39 years, two months after Dave Malcolm was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Scenes from the last day of Bradley's Pizza in Boscawen on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. The business closed after 39 years. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Manager Sean Watson (right) makes a pizza to order on the last day of Bradley's Pizza in Boscawen on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. The business closed after 39 years. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Scenes from the last day of Bradley's Pizza in Boscawen on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. The business closed after 39 years. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Amanda Malcolm (left) takes an order from long-time customer Sheila Serrano of Boscawen on the last day of Bradley's Pizza in Boscawen on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. The business closed after 39 years. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Warren Emery of Boscawen (left) and Lillian Noble of Concord help Sean Watson (right) fulfills orders on the last day of Bradley's Pizza in Boscawen on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. The business closed after 39 years. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)



Monitor staff
Thursday, August 31, 2017

As the sun set behind the trees surrounding Bradley’s Pizza, it seemed like a normal Wednesday night.

From the moment the Boscawen staple of 39 years opened for business at 4 p.m., the phone had not stopped ringing. People wanted to know if there would be delivery service that night, and if they would still be able to order their favorite roast beef sandwiches and chicken fingers.

Bradley’s wasn’t offering deliveries that night, Justin Malcolm, the owner’s son, would tell them. Instead, it was just takeout services available on Wednesday.

So people came to the restaurant, climbed the worn stairs and waited patiently in line to pick up their orders. They sat at the wood-grain tabletops, even though the dining room wasn’t open, and talked amongs themselves. They made a point of speaking to Malcolm, who was more than willing to step away from the narrow counter where he and his sister Amanda spent their childhoods ringing up orders to talk to them.

If it weren’t for a sign in the dining room “Pizzas – til the toppings run out,” it would be just another dinner rush.

The family needed to spend more time together, a message posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page read. “Things have changed over those 39 years, and we think it’s time for a change for us as well.”

But those close to the family knew the reason was more complicated than that – owner Dave Malcolm had been diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver in June, and the disease had slowly forced the once-robust man to cut his 12-hour, seven-days-a-week schedule to five hours, then just a few hours, then none.

Two weeks ago, Dave Malcolm was admitted to the hospital, where he remained Wednesday night. On Sunday, he gathered his family and said enough was enough.

“He didn’t think it was fair, to leave us with the business,” Justin Malcolm said.

Since then, business had been anything but usual, as everyone was trying to get their last chance at a slice of Bradley’s.

“We’ve been selling out of everything,” Malcolm said. “Last night, the dining room was full, and the wait time for deliveries was over an hour and a half. I don’t think anyone complained.”

He paused, grief flickering across his face. “People have been so supportive. It’s been really overwhelming to see” – that grief again, now cracking his voice – “how much not only the business, but how much my dad and his family means to the community.”

‘Everyone knows Bradley’s’

The name Bradley’s is a holdover from the previous owners, who sold the business to Bob and Pat Malcolm, along with their son, Dave, on Sept. 9, 1978. Eventually, Dave took over the business, and he eventually met his wife, Pam.

In 1989, his son Justin was born, and he and his younger sister Amanda grew up 3 miles away from Bradley’s in the house their father grew up in.

There’s never been a discussion, Malcolm said, about changing the name to reflect its current owners. “Everyone in town knows Bradley’s,” he said.

The restaurant is as ingrained in the Malcolm family as the path in the dining room carpet from the door to the tables. Justin and Amanda Malcolm grew up taking to-go orders and later delivering pizzas to the surrounding communities. Even now, at 28 years old, Justin still helps out – and when he learned his father was sick, he started coming to Bradley’s every night after his work at the Merrimack County Sheriff’s office.

Malcolm said he’s thought about leaving a few times, but the thought of walking away from the business his family built brings him close to tears.

“The biggest thing for me was, what teenage boy doesn’t want to grow up to be like his dad?” he said.

That community feeling

For some lifelong Boscawen residents, the Malcolm family and Bradley’s aren’t just a family and a pizza shop, but a cornerstone of their community.

Malcolm said the restaurant has hosted countless school sport fundraisers and has provided pizza for the town’s Old Home Day for years. That narrow counter saw countless high school students taking money and answering the phone, some of whom still live in town today.

Scott Dow, 48, and Reggie LeClair, 59, are two such residents. Both grew up in Boscawen and both have spent time as delivery drivers. The mention of Dave’s name brings a sad smile to their faces.

“He’s just a great guy, has always treated me well,” Dow said. “They’re good people; it’s just sad the way things are ending.”

He added: “You say Bradley’s, and everyone knows where you’re talking about. It’s a landmark.”

LeClair said he and Dave Malcolm grew up next door to each other; living down the street from Bradley’s just seemed like a part of Boscawen life. The shop’s success, he said, is indicative of what makes the town a great place to be.

“It seems like we’re running away from this now, but Boscawen is a place where everybody used to know everybody,” he said. “And there is always someone to help if you’re in trouble. It’s just a tight-knit place.”

That tight-knit feeling can especially be felt behind the counter, where a half-dozen employees could be found Wednesday night gamely sliding pies into pizza boxes and shaking out French fries into stand-up containers.

It was a sad moment, said manager Sean Watson, who has worked at Bradley’s for five years. He arrived at Bradley’s before it opened that day to knock out his prep work, which usually includes dicing peppers and mixing pounds of pizza dough.

But that day, his work was just about the dough. There was little left to offer customers, he said; Everything aside from pizza, roast beef sandwiches, french fries and chicken fingers, Bradley’s best sellers, was gone.

“I’ve never worked for a better group of people,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

Indeed, no one knows what’s next for the location, which Malcolm said will eventually go up for sale. He anticipated there would be some clean-up to do over the next few weeks, by which time he hoped his father would be out of the hospital. People are welcome, he said, to stop by and see Dave and Pam during that time.

But none of that mattered Wednesday night. Malcolm and his crew still had boxes to fill, customers to greet and ovens to heat. They had to sell pizza – until the toppings ran out.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.comr or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)