Diner Discovers Ties to Historic Poultry Industry

Over the years, Doyle’s Family Restaurant in Selbyville has served a lot of chicken. Little did its owners know just how much money it once made for local growers.

Brandon Doyle was deep in his payroll a few months ago when the hostess of his restaurant entered the office. “There’s some guy out front taking pictures,” she said. “Do you want me to throw him out?” Never mind that she was 80, and the photographer was 6 feet plus. Doyle was curious.

Doyle had only recently learned that the Woody’s Diner portion of Doyle’s Family Restaurant was the oldest and best preserved of the original classic diners on the Eastern Shore. Woody’s stood alone on U.S. 113 in Selbyville from 1950 until Doyle’s father, Mike, bought it in 1983, renamed it and, over the years, added new kitchens and dining rooms.

But the photographer, documentary filmmaker Mike Oates of 302 Stories, told Doyle something totally new: Woody’s was the birthplace of the Eastern Shore Poultry Growers Exchange, arguably the single biggest advance in making the area one of the largest chicken-producing areas in the world.

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In the 1940s and ’50s, local chicken growers were having difficulty getting paid. One, having seen the produce auction process in Texas, proposed, at Woody’s, starting a similar enterprise. In 1952, the owner built a small back room, then installed a bank of 10 phones to receive orders. The auction did a booming business on its very first day, and the industry took off. The exchange operated there until 1969.

Not only will Woody’s soon appear in a new book, Randy Garbin’s “Diners of Maryland and Delaware,” it also now proudly bears a blue-and-gold historical marker that explains its part in launching the industry that made Selbyville’s downtown livelier and more prosperous than that of the county seat in Georgetown. “I never knew what a big deal our little town was,” Doyle says. “I just thought this would be something nice to do for Dad.”

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