It was 1955 when Henry and Rena Phillips bought the Town Spa that was in the upstairs in the former furniture factory on Porter Street near the railroad crossing. This was not the best location for ‘Henry the Pizza King” and was hardly a palace. Henry knew that his reputation as a great pizza-maker in Randolph would have to be introduced to folks in Stoughton in order to make the Town Spa successful.
Competition in the neighborhood from two other lounges with street level entrances meant that the Spa would have to have something unique to make customers climb those stairs. It was also a very active business neighborhood with Coe’s Fish Market, Peterson Electrical and Lehan’s, the “World‘s Oldest Ford Dealership” across the street. Corcoran’s shoe factory across the tracks buzzed with hundreds of workers making its famous paratroop boots.
The Spa’s old building, built in 1882, had been used to make and sell furniture, used as embalming rooms of Lowe, Smith & Powers, as a machine shop, the pressroom and offices of the Stoughton News-Sentinel, and an appliance store. The original Town Spa had but one kitchen, lots of booths, and a bar to seat a dozen patrons, plus a long stairway to the street. Henry added a pizza oven to watch while tending bar. At night, when the small crowds came in, Rena would wait tables.
Henry realized that advertising would be the only way to get anyone to patronize his second – floor bar. He promptly mounted a big sign atop his little Nash Rambler announcing his new ownership of the Spa. Now he needed some other way to get customers up those stairs for the Best Pizza around. When business was slow on weekends, he would cook a few extra pizzas, slice them, load the Rambler and head for Sumner Gardens. While his neighbors were working around the yard or their kids were playing in the street, Henry would hand out slices of pizza as samples to everyone in sight. It was a great tasting pizza! Henry blazed that trail and before long his neighbors were beating a path to the Town Spa order- ing a pizza or a dozen for a party. Friends began bringing friends to try those great pizzas. It soon became a tradition to order a pizza on a weekend evening.
By 1962, Henry and Rena were ready to buy the building and move the Spa downstairs with a separate “Pizza to Go” door. More ovens were added to meet the ever increasing demand for pizza. To appease the lunch-hour appetites of the nearby factory workers, Henry introduced a great sandwich menu which needed no advertising. Before long, the Town Spa was the busiest restaurant in Stoughton Square. Henry died in 1973 leaving management to sons Fran and Dick. His daughters Bev and Sandy assist-ed their mom with serving their customers with the reputation for the Best in Pizza. The phone was ring-ing off the hook to the tune of thousands of pizzas a week. Lines of waiting patrons at the Pizza-to-go counter started flowing out onto the sidewalk on Saturday and Sunday evenings. The rear parking lot was always full. The popularity of Town Spa’s pizzas was spreading far and wide. As the Spa entered its thirty first year, it was obvious that it had outgrown the old factory space.
Where would a new Town Spa go? The Phillips Family looked to the south side of town. At the corner of Plain and Washington Streets was a restaurant popular in the 1940’s & 50’s, known as Cal’s. Cal’s, formerly a Frate’s Ice Cream Snack bar, catered to travelers headed to Rhode Island. In the late 1950’s, it’s parking lot was the scene of square dances on summer weekend evenings. With the opening of Route 24, Cal’s prominence faded to the point where it opened only on week-ends and for small func-tions. Its spacious parking lot would make this site a welcome location. The existing building wasn’t large enough, by pooling their resources, the Phillips family chose to build an entirely new family-style restaurant. Rena Phillips’ brother George Hoeg was chosen as the builder. In early spring 1986 Cal’s restaurant was razed. Through the hot summer construction crews and restaurant help put in extra hours to finish the project.
With only a handwritten sign posted on the door of the Porter Street building, stating that they had moved to Washington Street, the new Town Spa opened on Tuesday Sept. 9, 1986. Nearly three thou-sand patrons came by that evening as extra help was called in and the entire Phillips family was busy sewing and greeting old and new friends. The first-night success proved that the parking lot was not big enough. The first expansion of the lot was a boon to the local AMVETS Post. The post was given the house that stood a few doors north of the Spa. Moving houses was not new to the Phillips Family, for they had moved Caledeira’s house down Plain Street when the restaurant construction had first begun.
Henry Phillips’ basic 1955 pizza recipe is still used while new varieties of pizzas as well as appetizers and salads are introduced each year. The Phillips Family has enjoyed and appreciated the loyalty of their customers and employees throughout the past years.