In less than two weeks, Miami has lost two of its oldest businesses. Saturday, life-long patrons of Woody's Cafe said goodbye to what many customers deemed “the best place in Miami to be.”
“It's more than just the best place to eat in town, it's home,” said one customer.
Woody's last meal was served just 12 days after its neighbor for more than a half-century, Miami Laundry, burned to the ground.
Through tear-filled eyes, Patti Baker and Angee Tinsley, co-owners of Woody's, reminisced about their days growing up at the cafe.
Baker began working at Woody's when she was 13 years old. A generation later, her niece Tinsley began working for Woody - also at the age of 13.
“We moved to Miami in 1963,” Baker said. “My mom began working for Woody (Proctor) almost immediately. Us kids all grew up here.”
It was Baker's mother, the late Mae Ray, who is credited for the cafe's traditional homemade noodles. Baker said her mother's tradition continued through the years, adding that the only thing not homemade in the cafe is the vegetables.
“When I first started waiting tables here, I had to stand on a wooden Coca-Cola box to reach the service counter. I was so short,” Baker said.
Tinsley said she can't imagine doing anything else and leaving is like taking a part of her life from her.
“I love every inch of this place,” Tinsley said. “I love the people. They are family.”
It wasn't by choice that the duo closed the doors. According to Baker, an increase in the building lease is forcing them to leave the place that holds so many fond memories.
Baker bought Woody's in 1985 and decided then that there was no way she could dishonor the man behind the cafe.
“I never even considered changing the name,” Baker said.
Shortly after taking over what had become a family business, Baker hired Bill Hoover to assume the responsibilities as the main cook. She later married him.
“I really have to credit my husband, (the late) Bill, with our famous breakfast,” Baker said. “He is the one who made it what it is and passed on his knowledge to Angee and I.”
Baker and Tinsley agree that they built their business by always putting the customers first.
“It's always been about giving the people the best, consistently,” Baker said.
“A lot of the people who have come in here every day for years have no family,” Tinsley said. “We have become their family.”
Both women say they hope their customers have enjoyed them and the service they provided as much as they have enjoyed serving them for so many years.
The doors won't close forever.
The cafe will eventually reopen under a new owner, but a definite date is unknown.
The new owner could not be reached for comment.