2008-07-10 / News

Customer service along with a cone at Spinnakers

By Erin Brown

The staff at Spinnakers helps to make the café such a special part of Jamestown. Photo by Jeff McDonough The staff at Spinnakers helps to make the café such a special part of Jamestown. Photo by Jeff McDonough A choice of fourteen delicious flavors, hand packed into one scrumptiously divine cone, is the trademark for Spinnakers Café, set on the Jamestown waterfront.

Spinnaker's is well known for the delectable ice cream they offer to the Jamestown community all throughout the summer season. Owner and manager Mike Ridge offers other food choices as well. He said that sometimes it feels like he's running three separate businesses: a coffee shop, a deli, and an ice cream shop. One of Ridge's main reasons for offering more than ice cream on his menu is, "Ice cream is somewhat dependent on weather." Because of that, Ridge decided that he wanted the café to offer some solid alternative food options, but during the evening they do close down the grill so that they can concentrate solely on the ice cream portion of the shop.

Ridge is entering his fourth season with Spinnakers, although the café itself has been around longer. While it has had several different owners along the way, the café celebrated its 25th birthday last year, and has been a landmark in the community for some time.

Ridge heard about the ice cream shop being for sale from a friend who was vacationing in Jamestown. Ridge was in the ice cream business in New Hampshire at the time, and was looking to branch out. After seeing Spinnakers, Ridge bought it immediately, and ran it as it was until the end of the season. During the next winter, he worked hard at remodeling the shop using the business model from his New Hampshire franchise, finishing up just in time to open up again for Memorial Day of that year.

The restaurant has a surprisingly low turnover rate in terms of staff, since the café is seasonal, only being open during the summer months. Ridge says that he thinks the café is a fun, dynamic place to work, and the amount of workers that return each summer would seem to prove that his employees agree with him. He mentioned that he had some workers who started as early as eighth grade, and who came back each summer until they had graduated from college.

Ridge pointed out that to work at Spinnakers, employees really have to be a people person to some extent, or as he put it, "When there are lots of customers in line, and it has been a long day, when you get to the 500th person, you have to be able to smile, be polite and serve them as cheerfully as the first one."

Ridge emphasized that he wanted to give each customer equal service and said that he poured a lot of time and effort into training his employees to think the same way. He admitted that it can be difficult sometimes, but thinks that overall, he and his crew are successful in this area.

Since he is in the ice cream business, Ridge says that everywhere he goes he samples the local ice cream to see how it matches up with the products at the café. He says that he most often compares his favorite flavor, which is black raspberry. "We usually win," he confided. Critics would seem to agree with Ridge, with Spinnakers receiving many awards and good reviews, including one recently on the café's "Death by Chocolate" ice cream flavor.

Ridge attributes some of the success of the café to its location. "It helps to be in a beautiful place like Jamestown," he said with a laugh. He also commented that sometimes other places might have better ice cream, but that at Spinnakers a customer gets more than the ice cream- they get an experience. Ridge pointed out that people come from Newport, from Providence, Boston, and even from Connecticut or Massachusetts. They didn't come just for the ice cream. "You can sit out on our back deck right out over the water," he said, "Or just stroll along the docks or through the town. You can make a day of it- because overall, it is an experience."

Spinnakers Café is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday through Thursday, and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. They will be open until the last Sunday in October.

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