2012-07-26 / News

Spinnakers expands, 25 seats added to a second dining room

Owner says 2012 is shaping up to be its best year ever
BY KEN SHANE


Spinnakers has expanded its dining area at the East Ferry Wharf. The new section can seat 25 additional guests and is air conditioned. Spinnakers has expanded its dining area at the East Ferry Wharf. The new section can seat 25 additional guests and is air conditioned. Mike Ridge is in his eighth year as the owner of Spinnakers, but this year there is a big difference. The East Ferry favorite has annexed the vacant space next door and added an additional dining room to the facility, while the existing tables out back remain.

Customers still line up for the restaurant’s popular ice cream on a daily basis, but Spinnakers’ menu has expanded beyond frozen treats to reflect the new surroundings. The usual complement of lobster rolls – always a best seller – are on hand, with clam rolls, clam cakes, shrimp, scallops and other seafood dishes joining the menu lineup.

“It’s shaping up to be our best year ever,” Ridge said. “With all the rain during the spring we had a bit of a slow start, but we’ve been roaring back ever since.”

Ridge credited the increased business to the special events that have come to the area this summer, including the Newport Bermuda Race, the America’s Cup World Series and the Ocean State Tall Ships Festival. The good weather has also been a factor, according to Ridge, as does Spinnakers’ growing reputation for serving quality food.

There is no doubt that the biggest change at Spinnakers is the addition of a second dining room. The new space, which was most recently occupied by a yacht broker, was taken over at the start of the season, doubling the store’s footprint and adding approximately 25 new seats. The restaurant can now seat 48, which includes the outside deck.

“We’ve been busting at the seams for a long while now as Spinnakers has continued to grow,” Ridge said. “We’ve been eyeing that space but the circumstances never aligned until this spring. So when the opportunity arose, we knew that this was the time to do it.”

Ridge said that it was a bit of an ordeal to begin the construction necessary to join the two spaces while still accommodating customers once the season started. But he added that his customers understood what he was trying to accomplish, and put up with the inconveniences that go along with that sort of a project. In the end, Spinnakers was able to open the new dining room in time for the America’s Cup World Series, which had been the goal from the start.

Ridge said that the new dining room has made a tremendous difference to his business, and both his regular customers and visitors have expressed their appreciation of the new space, offering compliments on the appearance and comfort of the new dining area. He added that the visibility of the new dining room from the street has helped to let visitors know that there is more than ice cream at Spinnakers.

“I’m absolutely ecstatic with the addition,” Ridge said. “Not only does it make everything more comfortable for our customers, giving them additional seating options, it gives us better traffic flow for all of our take-out operations, which is a significant portion of our business: people going to the beach, going on the ferry or going to their boat. It’s been great.”

Ice cream remains the most popular attraction at Spinnakers though. The big item for this summer has been the Beach Bucket Sundae, a monster dish created in a beach bucket loaded with ice cream and toppings. Ridge said that in the vein of some of the televised eating contests that have become popular, there’s a challenge involved in seeing if one person can finish the entire sundae.

“If a solo individual is able to finish it, they get the sundae (a $25 value) for free,” Ridge said. “They also get a free T-shirt and a spot on the Wall of Fame.”

Approximately 24 challengers have attempted the task thus far. The closest that anyone has been was finishing about two-thirds of the sundae during the allotted time. However, a team of three 12-yearolds did manage to demolish the sundae in under 10 minutes.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Ridge said. “A couple of the local school classes came down and did it as their last class party of the year. A military family that was transferring out came down as a family and had the Beach Bucket Sundae. It’s been something that the groups have been able to have a good time enjoying.”

There are still a couple of unfinished items to take care of in the new dining room. Ridge said that new bench seats and counter seats will be added as well. There are also plans to expand the establishment’s rear windows to create an indoor-outdoor effect for that entire part of the restaurant.

Traditionally Spinnakers has been open until Columbus Day, but according to Ridge, there is now some discussion of extending the season for the restaurant.

“It’s a work in progress. It gives us a lot of options to consider whether we’re going to extend our season or not. We haven’t come to that point in our decision-making process yet.”

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