DUNCANNON, Pa (WHTM) — Most people could walk down Market Street in Duncannon a hundred times and they would never notice the two white lines painted onto a certain utility pole. For the estimated 1,200 to 1,400 Appalachian Trail hikers who pass by it each spring and summer, the ‘trail blaze’ is one of a kind.
“This signifies a change in trail direction,” says Thomas Gathman, a self-described “winter through hiker” from Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. “The trail doesn’t actually go through many towns. It goes near them, where you hitchhike into town. But the trail goes right by The Doyle.”
The Doyle, a historic bar, restaurant and hotel has been a Duncannon landmark since the 1770s. Not always under the same name, and at least once completely destroyed by fire and rebuilt, the building was once owned by Adolphus Busch of Anheuser-Busch. For the last 15 years, it has been owned by husband and wife Pat and Vickey Kelly.
“When we first bought this place, it was almost a nuisance bar,” says Pat. “I mean heavy drinkers, a lot of cussing. The place was filled with smoke. That’s not what we wanted.”
As the Kellys cleaned up the atmosphere of the bar and dining area to attract a more family-friendly customer base, they experienced a “major loss of revenue” they have never recovered from. While some regular local customers have replaced the rowdy crowds over the years, the establishment has continued to struggle during the fall and winter months, when few hikers are still passing through Duncannon on their months-long journey from Georgia to Maine.
“There’s no place else to stop in this town in either direction for quite a few miles,” adds Pat. “So they look forward to being here. A warm bed, a hot shower, food and all of the social amenities they need to continue their hike are here.”
But the Kellys say while the “hiker boost” each year has been enough to sustain their business in years past, the off-season revenue drought is finally beginning to catch up. According to Vickey, they’ve fallen behind on taxes and mortgage payments. “If we can get our back taxes caught up, the bank will work with us again,” she says. “We just hit a bad spot. It kind of spiraled out of control.”
The Kellys, who says they are set to default on their bank loan on March 22, are trying to raise $9,000 using Go Fund Me.
“We have $2,420 on gofundme.com,” says friend Anne Kearney, who set up the online fundraising effort. “Save The Doyle. This is the anchor of the town square. Its very important that it be maintained in a decent condition, so it attracts people to the square. Its also the location for many of the town functions.”
The Kellys, who reside full-time in the hotel, say they’ll survive if they are forced to close. However, they say they local economy will likely suffer, citing the overflow business that other merchants gain from passing hikers who spend the night at The Doyle. “If they just walked through town, sure they’ll still get a pizza, they’ll get their groceries,” says Pat. “But if they don’t stay overnight here, then they don’t get their second meal. They’re not going to get breakfast across the street. They’re not going to get a haircut.”
Most importantly, the Kellys believe a wonderful piece of Appalachian Trail history and tradition will be lost. Over the years, the couple has provided food and shelter to hikers who couldn’t always afford to pay for it. In some cases, they’ve allowed injured hikers to stay in the hotel for extra nights at no charge while they recover, “Because they’d rather be hiking. We’re not going to take advantage of a guy if he can’t walk. We take care of hikers.”
Gathman agrees, sipping a tall beer at the bar. Now three months into his unorthodox early North-to-South ‘through hike’ from Maine to Georgia he began in December, he says knowing a landmark like The Doyle is a day or two away can keep a hiker’s mind focused and thinking positively in difficult conditions.
“You’re just sweaty and gross, you’re tired and cold,” he says. “Whatever the case may be, you’re trying to get to that next spot where you can recharge your batteries, internally. Clean youself up, get some hot food, a burger. And places like this are what make that possible. The Doyle is iconic.”
You can help “Save The Doyle” by clicking HERE.