Eileen and Doug Beach of Niskayuna were hoping for hamburgers with Barack Obama Friday afternoon.
But the president decided to talk and run. Obama made his speech at the General Electric Co.’s main campus and skipped lunch in the Capital Region. The Secret Service had made inquiries about the Five Guys restaurant in Niskayuna, and there was a chance the president would visit before or after his brief stop in Schenectady.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Eileen Beach, 62, during her two-hour wait for Obama at the Mohawk Commons hamburger place. “We’re both retired, so we have the time.”
Doug Beach, also 62, didn’t mind sitting at one of the 26 small wooden tables, listening to the Five Guys’ blend of classic rock by the Zombies, James Gang, Alice Cooper and Santana. “Anticipation is sometimes as much fun as the actual event,” he said.
Others had the same idea. Janet Mattis of Niskayuna brought a homemade sign on yellow paper. “Thank you 4 health care reform and making sure my 19-year-old daughter has health insurance,” it read.
“We were going to lunch anyway,” said Mattis, accompanied by sisters Abby and Emily Foster of Burnt Hills. “We figured we’d come here.”
Patricia DeMare, 60, of Colonie, also played the waiting game. She brought a portrait of the president, complete with a White House-issued signature, and was hoping for authentic penmanship. “I was going to ask him to sign it for real himself,” she said.
While Obama didn’t use the restaurant for public relations points, Eddie Clark did. The WPYX radio morning host — he’s part of the “Wakin’ Up with the Wolf” crew — wore a light almond-colored suit, oversized red, white and blue bow tie and an Obama paper mask as a gag. Clark arrived at Five Guys in a white stretch limousine and brought a basketball and local dancers Kym Bardwell and Tonya Finning with him.
“I’ll give him some love — ‘How you doing, brother?’ ” Clark said of his planned approach to the president. “God bless America that you can even do stuff like this. Try doing this in another country with another leader and see what happens.”
The limousine parked outside the restaurant convinced some people that Obama really was inside, maybe ordering a $6.29 bacon cheeseburger or a $2.99 cheese veggie sandwich. “I saw the limo and said, ‘God, maybe it’s true,’ ” said Joanne Finn, 62, of Glenville. Others didn’t buy the stunt — they knew Obama would have travelled in a large motorcade, with a presidential black limousine.
Bill Rabbitt was glad for fans of both hamburgers and the president. “We love the publicity, it’s great,” said Rabbitt, director of operations for the seven-store Five Guys franchise in the Capital Region. “But it’s business as usual.”
Rabbitt said some people seemed to be stretching their Friday lunch hours, spending more time in the restaurant and hoping for a bite with Obama. He said had the president made an appearance, the nation’s chief executive would have had to open his wallet.
“It’s the American way,” he said. “I don’t even think he could take one [for free].”
Tim Burns, 43, of Schuylerville, spent more than an hour at Five Guys. He was more concerned about his business meeting than meeting Obama.
“Completely unaware,” he said of the president’s rumored visit. “Not much of a fan, either.”