by Ginger Costen
If you’re planning to have Mother’s Day dinner at the Wind Tiki Restaurant this year in Webster, you better make other plans as the company is closing the last weekend in March after 40 years of serving the best Chinese food in southern Worcester County. Wind Tiki opened on April 11, 1974.
Although there were tentative plans earlier this year for the restaurant to reopen under new management, according to the property owner’s spokesperson, Marc Becker, there are no plans beyond the end of the month. When asked if there were any pending ideas for the location he said, “People have called and asked but as of this moment there’s nothing solid.”
According to Mr. Becker the Wind Tiki began as a group of five owners (including current owner Richard Woo) that quickly grew into a corporation of 25 owners with multiple holdings. “It was one of the busiest restaurants in Webster,” said Becker. “My brother Randy and I worked there as busboys when we were teenagers.”
A very humble and gracious man, Richard Woo started as a young partner 40 years ago and now he’s the last man standing. Beyond making plans to spend more time with his family, Woo is looking to relax now that he is retiring from the restaurant business.
The original restaurant business at 154 Thompson Road was Nectarland Dairy Bar, owned by Marc’s father Herman.
A 16 year-old Herman Becker began with Nectar Products in 1946 when he was hired by Jacqueline (Leboeuf) Puliafico to drive delivery trucks from their store on the corner of Barnes and School Streets in Webster. In the 1950s Herman Becker and the Leboeuf family purchased the property on Thompson Road to manufacture ice cream. “My Father was always in competition with Hood Ice Cream and they’d deliver Nectar Ice Cream throughout the area on five Old King Cole ice cream trucks.
Nectarland soon grew into more than a dairy and ice cream stand. Along with car hops to deliver fast food meals to the cars parked out front, a full service menu was also offered inside the restaurant. Families played miniature golf outside and the location almost immediately became a favorite spot on hot summer nights for both teens and adults.
“Later my father added a convenience store and also delivered fast food items when the Old King Cole trucks became canteens to the area’s mills and Thompson Speedway,” said Becker. The Beckers also developed a line of frozen foods called Primo Pizza after Herman Becker’s father, known as Papa B, joined the company as the kitchen manager.
Before it was Wind Tiki, the property was known as Dante’s Inferno and was managed by Justin Dante. From 1965-1973 Dante specialized in serving a steak house menu until a fire partially destroyed the eating and kitchen areas.
In 1964 Herman Becker’s attention shifted to forming Sterling Realty and other business ventures which ultimately brought an end to Nectarland and the sale of the business. (Nectar Ice Cream had been previously sold to Hood Ice Cream in the 1950s).
“What will happen only time will tell - a lot of people have expressed an interest in the location,” said Marc Becker. But one thing that he is sure won’t be going in to the location is another Nectarland.
Reflecting back on the businesses, Becker added “A lawyer wants their kid to grow up and be a doctor. A doctor wants his child to be a lawyer. But a restaurateur wants his children to be businessmen.”
For the record, neither Marc Becker nor Randy Becker became restaurateurs. Marc did follow in his father’s footsteps as a successful partner in Sterling Realty, as well as serving as Webster’s Assessor since 2004. Randall Becker has been with Commerce Insurance since the 1980s and now serves as an Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the Mapfre/Commerce Insurance Company.
The Yankee Shopper and writer Ginger Costen wish to express our appreciation for the assistance from Carla Manzi, the Becker Family and OldeWebster.com in writing this story. Ginger can be reached at [email protected]