President visits Bingham’s
BY DAVE FALCHEK and BORYS KRAWCZENIUK
The early bird special at Bingham’s Restaurant was extra special Friday with a surprise visit from President Barack Obama.
Before he took a few pies to go from the Lenox Twp. restaurant in Susquehanna County, he made sure he greeted and chatted with somewhat stunned diners and employees who unexpectedly found themselves face-to-face with the president of the United States.
Kevin King of Staten Island and Amelia VanDerMark of Newfield, N.Y., both University at Albany-SUNY students, admitted to being a bit star struck when Obama introduced himself and began asking them about school and their majors.
King didn’t know Obama’s mother had a degree in anthropology – which is his field of study.
“We don’t even live in the area and we stopped here and met the president,” VanDerMark said. “He was like I’d expect him: very chill.”
About an hour before the 4:08 p.m. visit, a Secret Service agent called Bingham’s. Bomb-sniffing dogs made rounds, which raised some suspicions among diners. It wasn’t until Secret Service agents asked to sweep diners with a metal detector that they concluded the president would be visiting.
“I heard you’ve got good pie,” Obama said as he entered the restaurant where owner David Scarpetta greeted him. “That’s the word on the street. You know your senator, Bob Casey?”
“Yes, we do,” a woman at the counter answered.
When Obama asked what is Bingham’s specialty, Scarpetta said coconut cream, but later admitted that he had been tipped off that it is the president’s favorite.
“One coconut cream pie,” Obama said. “I think I should get a cherry pie. This is my order. I don’t know about you,” he said, turning to Casey. “And, I think we can get a pecan pie.”
Obama chatted with Scarpetta, asking him if the business was hard work.
“It sure is,” Scarpetta replied. “It’s not as hard as being president.”
“Awww,” Obama said. “I’ll tell you what, the only thing about you is you’re not term-limited.”
Scarpetta told his staff not to let the president pay. But in the end, Obama insisted and did pay for the pies, a Bingham’s employee later said.
Bingham’s cook, Nate Belcher of Union Dale, got a special memento from the president. As the president greeted kitchen staff, one of Belcher’s colleagues mentioned that he’s a Marine and a Iraq War vet who served in the country from 2005 to 2006. The president thanked him repeatedly for his service and gave him a presidential military coin. Belcher said he’ll put the coin from the Commander-in-Chief next to one he received from Gen. David Petraeus.
Tara and Paul Dominguez were in the restaurant with their children Lauren, 10, and Kyle, 9. When Mr. Dominguez told Obama he is public school teacher in Philadelphia, the president was aware of the contract dispute teachers are having there, and said he would talk to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
He took time to chat with the children, urging them to work hard and hit the books. He took time to pose for pictures.
“In person, he is just like you think he would be,” said Tara’s father, Robert Staats, of New Milford. “The kids have something they’ll remember forever.”