2017-10-05 / Front Page

MacKenna’s closing after 52 years in N.L.


John and Tracey MacKennaJohn and Tracey MacKennaNEW LONDON -- After serving homemade food for 52 years, MacKenna’s Family Restaurant is closing on Oct. 16.

John MacKenna and his wife Tracey have decided to retire, which means closing the doors to the popular restaurant located in the New London Shopping Center Plaza.

Prior to the most recent move, MacKenna’s was located on Main Street. John built the new location in 1991, which became the restaurant’s fourth and final iteration.

Back when MacKenna’s first opened in 1965, a cup of coffee cost 10 cents and a stack of pancakes cost 75 cents.

And though the prices have risen over the last several decades with inflation, MacKenna’s is still known for serving a wide variety of affordable homemade American food, including popular items such as the Egg MacKenna.

“I’m going to miss the wonderful meals and the smiling staff,“ said Diane A. Wolf, a New London resident that has been a customer since the 1970s.

In addition to juggling all the administrative duties that come with being owners, John and Tracey help their staff provide quality service to customers.

John can often be found baking everything from pot roasts to pies to English muffins, while Tracey waits on patrons.

“It can be very hard to work on the business when you’re so busy working in the business,” said Tracey, “but we both enjoy people so much.”

It’s that kind of friendliness that makes the restaurant is more than just an eatery. MacKenna’s plays an important social role for New London and the surrounding towns.

During a community-organized reception held on Sept. 24 at the historical society’s Griffin Barn, Selectman Nancy Rollins issued a proclamation on behalf of the board.

Chief among the restaurant’s listed contributions to the town was its function as a “popular meeting place for many civic and social groups.”

One of the social groups includes a group of retired airline pilots that meet every Monday morning. John and Tracey decided to close on a Monday so the pilots would be there for the last breakfast service.

During the reception, Tom Donnelly shared that MacKenna’s was a major factor in his decision to move to the region.

“That warm place on a cold day was the reason I said, ‘this is where I’d like to settle.’”

MacKenna’s prides itself on being family-friendly, and their family’s mark on the restaurant proves it. Tracey’s mother often helps out around the restaurant, and all seven of John’s children worked there at some point.

“They all came through this business, and they all got real smart and kept going,” he joked.

Though some did not end up too far from the restaurant. Jamie MacKenna serves as an officer with the New London Police Department and attended the reception.

John and Tracey are also known as being extremely generous. They have hosted numerous benefit dinners and donated supplies and food to many community groups.

Among the initiatives that John supported, the Kearsarge Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program was one of his personal favorites.

MacKenna’s last benefit dinner was held on Saturday, Sept. 30, and proceeds went to support the D.A.R.E. at Kearsarge as well as the New London Fire and Police Association’s community outreach programs.

John’s dedication to the community was recognized in 2012 when the New London Service Organization presented him with the Third of a Century Award.

“My folks were brought up in the depression, and people helped people back then,” replied John when asked why giving back is so important to him.

“And it feels good,” added Tracey.

At the same time, the couple is extremely humble and credits their staff and the community for keeping the business alive.

“We have a lot of gratitude for the life we have. It has been great,” he said.

And the feeling of gratitude continues as they look forward to the next chapter of their lives. John and Tracey plan on traveling and visiting family across the country.

“We are going to reinvent ourselves,” explained John.

But there are a few questions about the future that remain unanswered.

During the reception, someone asked, “where are we going to eat now?”

“Right here,” said John, indicating the four tables filled with food.

According to Read Clarke and Janet Miller Haines, the principle organizers of the reception, the expectation was that anyone who attended would bring a dish to share.

The nice gesture was a role reversal. This time around, the community was feeding the MacKennas.

If you want to say farewell to one of the most beloved staples of the community, MacKenna’s will be open during their normal business hours of 6:30–2:30 daily until closing.

The restaurant is accepting any unused gift certificates, and a guestbook from the reception is available to sign. The MacKennas would love to hear any memories that patrons might wish to share

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