John Bogle

Vanguard's penny-pinching founder loves his local diner

John C. Bogle is a notorious cheapskate. As founder of the Vanguard Group, one of the nation's largest mutual-fund companies, he brought low-cost index investing to the masses and ran the company with an eye constantly on cost-cutting.

So while other Philadelphia executives are breaking bread at the Union League and the Four Seasons Hotel's (FS ) Fountain Restaurant, Bogle's power breakfast spot is Benny's Place. It's a bustling, 185-seat diner around the corner from the city's new National Constitution Center, where Bogle has served as chairman since shortly before retiring from Vanguard in 1999.

Bogle orders two eggs over easy, home fries, and a couple of slices of rye toast, washed down with several cups of regular coffee. For $3.19, "the price is right," he says. Bogle's favorite part of the meal is the fried potatoes, which, he says, "aren't loaded with junk" like onions and peppers. "I like the crispy part," he says. So far he hasn't ordered anything else: "I never want to break up a winning combination."

Bogle, 75, underwent a heart transplant in 1996 and admits the meal isn't exactly the cornerstone of a heart-healthy diet. "My cardiologist encourages me to 'eat my heart out,' but only on special occasions," Bogle says. That's why his visits to Benny's are limited to several a month, when he meets with Constitutional Center staffers or friends.

The ambience at Benny's may not match the city's tonier eateries, but Bogle says the service certainly does. He likes how the servers never leave his coffee cup empty. Despite his penny-pinching reputation, Bogle pays up for good service: While a 15% gratuity on $3.19 is a mere 49 cents, Bogle usually tips $2.

Benny's Place, 435 Chestnut St., Philadelphia (215 574-3663)

By Lauren Young

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