Assistant Managing Editor
EAST LONGMEADOW In 1988 Ann Marie Duffy and Dennis Madden had a dream and the equation was simple: quality food + quality service = Coughlin's Place.
Two decades later, the cozy nook on North Main Street is still serving satisfied customers and this month is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
"I'm still enjoying it," Madden said, nursing a cup of coffee an hour after closing time last week.
Madden and Duffy feel like they've accomplished what they set out to achieve. When the two met as food service employees for Hampshire College, the idea of branching out and starting their own restaurant was something they took seriously. Duffy said they ate at every breakfast and lunch place on this side of Massachusetts and northern Connecticut. Coughlin is Duffy's maiden name and with enough coaxing from Madden, they agreed that it was better to name the restaurant after her -- especially since she had ties to the area as a Springfield resident. Madden is originally from Pennsylvania.
Over the years they have built their reputation on word of mouth and their concept of good homemade food coupled with fast service. In fact, the only advertising they have ever done for the restaurant has been an anniversary celebration: their first, eighth, tenth and now their twentieth.
"We get to know people by their first name," Madden explained. "We try to make it personal."
The special attention paid to their customers adds to the family atmosphere at Coughlin's Place. Both have children who help out at the diner; there are about 13 employees -- six who are full-timers, and many high school students who use the restaurant as a place of early employment.
"We've seen kids grow up," Madden said. "Now they're coming in with their families and their children."
Duffy said a big part of their success is also due to their dedicated staff. They've managed to come out on top despite the influx of chain restaurants and inflation increases.
"We've been really lucky," Madden said. "We stay busy."
"This is what we do, it's not work," Duffy added.
Starting this week, Coughlin's will no longer be open on Mondays. After 20 years in the restaurant business, the duo would like to enjoy an extra day with their respective families during the week.
"We've been talking about it," Madden said. "Her and I had a lot of discussions. It is best for our health."
This is a good outlook since they plan on being at Coughlin's 20 years from now.
"We want to keep going. We love all of our customers," Madden shared.
20th anniversary celebration
The community-minded owners want to celebrate their anniversary with the general public. Throughout February, Coughlin's Place will match every canned good donated to help the hungry in the area. For every canned good donated, the customer will receive a ticket to their anniversary drawing.
First prize includes one free meal per week for one year at Coughlin's Place; second prize is two Red Sox tickets; and third prize is two nights at the Westin Hotel in Boston for a weekend getaway. While monetary donations will also be accepted, they will not be matched.
On Feb. 5, Coughlin's will rerun their menu from 20 years ago with the original price. On Feb. 14 any customer that comes into the diner wearing their "I love Coughlin's" button will receive a free meal.