This time the deal is for real.
The owners of Caddies confirmed Friday they have sold the restaurant to Ronnie Heckman, the owner of Heckman’s Delicatessen, which is located just a few doors down on Cordell Avenue in Bethesda.
Jackie Sansone, the wife of longtime Caddies co-owner Chris Sansone, who spoke on behalf of her husband and the other owners—brothers Rob and Gabe Coulon—said they decided to sell the restaurant after 14 years to spend more time with their families and pursue other career opportunities.
The owners had been looking for a buyer for the restaurant for the past nine months or so. A deal with local restaurateur Ashish Alfred recently fell through after Alfred was unable to secure a lease for the property from the landlord.
Heckman, 26, said he first started negotiating with the owners in December and the deal was finalized Wednesday. He took over the restaurant Thursday.
“I want people to know it’s still going to be their old Caddies, just freshened up,” Heckman said Friday. “We’re going to put some makeup on it.”
He plans to put a fresh coat of paint on the interior, buff and wax the floors, and make other minor improvements, but mostly he said the look will remain the same. He has no plans to temporarily shut the restaurant while the renovations are made. Construction will likely take place during the late evening or morning hours when the restaurant is closed, he said.
“We’re still going to have 48 TVs in place, we’re still going to show every football game and we’re still going to have buckets of beer on the patio,” Heckman said.
He added that they’re going to bring some menu items from Heckman’s to Caddies, including the Reuben sandwich and its pickles. He’s also planning to add frozen drinks such as margaritas and pina coladas. There will be some items taken off the menu, but he said the popular staples will remain.
Heckman also hopes to bring a new level of customer service to the restaurant.
“We need to make the customer feel like they’re more than the dollar they spend,” he said. “If they spend $20, I want them to feel like they spent $40.”
He said some of the staff will remain under the new ownership and that he’s also brought in a few new hires. He wants his employees to learn the faces and orders of customers to create a neighborhood feel for the regulars.
“I’m trying to get it back to the well-oiled machine that it was and then take it to the next level,” Heckman said.
In a time of hip bars and craft beers, Caddies is a holdout. It’s a popular gathering spot for big sports games where it’s accepted, and encouraged, to order cheap beer and swig it on the large patio out front.
Jackie Sansone said one of her favorite memories from her years of involvement with the restaurant is hearing from couples who met at Caddies then later went on to get married.
“We always wanted to have a celebration where we invite back all the married couples who met at Caddies,” Sansone said.
It’s also known for being the place where former Washington Nationals’ manager Jim Riggleman was spotted sipping drinks with two young ladies after resigning from the team mid-season in 2011.
For his part, Heckman hopes more Caddies memories will be created in the future.
“We’re looking at hitting the ground sprinting, instead of running,” Heckman said.