Friday, December 08, 2023


Commuter Coffee Says Goodbye at Railroad Place

By James Lomuscio

After 42 years, Commuter Coffee Co.’s last cup was served around 12:30 p.m. today. Image
Fred Whelan (behind counter), a member of the family that has owned Commuter Coffee for decades, speaks with a customer on the last day. Dave Matlow for

The coffee’s taste was little bitter but sweet with memories of bygone faces and conversations, all of them ghosts amid the empty tables and booths at 46 Railroad Place.

The lights were already darkened; the grill had just been turned off.

“Where are you going with that apron on?” Pam Pappan, co-owner of the eatery with her ex-husband Tom Pappan, asked her son-in-law Fred Whelan.

“I’m cleaning,” he said, scrubbing tables as if it were just another day.

Pappan, 71, smiled.

She had just gone through an emotional farewell with Westporter Morgan Smith, a die-hard customer since her commuting days that started in 1982. Image
Commuter Coffee was empty just before the midday closing. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

“I love you,” Smith said, welling up “This is my last iced tea.”

“You’re witnessing true sadness,” Pappan said, hugging Smith.

“This was the real Westport,” she added. “We would cross talk over the tables with all the people from Saugatuck. Everybody knew everybody.

“Anybody who was anybody was in here at one point. They’re all gone now.”

Pappan’s ex-husband had purchased the place in 1976 from Jerry Allmond who first opened it in 1970, she said. Image
Richard and Bonnie Moon, 40-year Westport residents and 25-year customers of Commuter Coffee, walk here from their house off Compo Road South. They show off their souvenir coffee mugs. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

Pappan became involved in the business shortly after she married Tom in 1980, eventually giving up a design business in St. Thomas, V.I. to wait tables. In 1988, she designed and even took part in the construction of the remodeled Commuter Coffee.

Her daughter Kim grew up there, she said, waiting tables when she was only 14. Kim later married Fred, and they have twin boys, Fred and Alex, both 19. Alex poured the last cup of coffee today.

Initially, Commuter Coffee’s was open from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday from 5 a.m. to noon. All that changed in 1988 when it was opened seven days a week.

“The hours were from hell,” Pappan recalled. “You’d have to get up at 4 to have the coffee pot going for the 5 o’clock train.”

Today was the end of the line for the Pappan family at Railroad Place. Image
Commuter Coffee has been a staple on Railroad Place for four decades. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

“Why? I’m 71 and Tom is 75,” Pappan said. “We’re the last single-family business with no partners in the same place.”

As to what business would fill the void, Pappan said she could not comment on rumors that another commuter, diner-type restaurant would follow.

“I can’t talk about,” she said. “I will say this place is going to be wonderful.”

A listing for the property in February from Coldwell Banker Commercial said the asking price for the business was $219,000.

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