2013-09-05 / Front Page

Restaurants report strong sales during tourist season

Despite a rainy June, island eateries enjoy good summer
By Ken Shane

Mike Ridge of Spinnakers said the restaurant enjoyed its most successful summer since he took charge nine years ago. Above, patrons enjoy the café on Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of tourist season in Jamestown. 
Photo by kurt breneiser Mike Ridge of Spinnakers said the restaurant enjoyed its most successful summer since he took charge nine years ago. Above, patrons enjoy the café on Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of tourist season in Jamestown. Photo by kurt breneiser The summer of 2013 began and ended with rain in Jamestown. Despite the showers, local restaurateurs reported a good season, with most pointing to strong sales in August to make up for the slow start.

There were good results for first-time operators as well as traditional favorites.

According to John Recca, owner of the Narragansett Café and Jamestown Fish, the weather was good for most of the summer, with plenty of sunshine prevailing after the rainy June. There weren’t many heat waves, but the one in July hurt Recca’s outdoor patio business at Jamestown Fish. Fortunately, the large air conditioner on the roof of the Narragansett Cafe served his other restaurant well during that period.

Recca says even without events like the America’s Cup World Series and the tall ship parade that took place on the bay last summer, it seemed there were more people walking the sidewalks this year.

“Foot traffic seemed better than last year,” he said, “and the numbers seem to bear that out.”

Recca has owned the Narragansett Café for six years. There was steady growth for the first four years, but last year was flat compared to 2011, he said. Recca couldn’t be sure if the overall economy was having an effect on his business, or if the restaurant had topped out in terms of potential. Any concerns were erased when this year’s numbers showed business was up 15 to 20 percent over last year.

At Jamestown Fish, now in its second year, business is up 20 percent from 2012.

“I can say with all confidence that the summer was a win for both places,” Recca said.

There was a change in ownership at Simpatico Jamestown late last year, and manager Amy Barclay reported it was a strong first summer for the newly renovated restaurant. While Mother Nature seemed to toy with the weather a bit, said Barclay, the first season at Simpatico went off without a hitch.

“I’m surprised at how busy we were and how well everything went,” Barclay said. “Even though we had a couple of hiccups at the beginning – which all new restaurants do – I think the line out the door said it all.”

Barclay said she was pleased to see a lot of new, local faces at the restaurant. She was also gratified some of the former Trattoria Simpatico customers returned to the establishment.

Given its large outdoor space, Simpatico has the potential to be more affected by adverse weather than other restaurants in Jamestown. Barclay didn’t see any problem in that regard. Certain parts of the restaurant have roll-down sides that can be unfurled when the rain starts. According to Barclay, there is not as much of a demand for tables when the weather is bad anyway.

“We can accommodate 80 to 85 guests if it rains,” Barclay said. “We were able to accommodate everybody. In the state of Rhode Island, there’s a tourism-based economy. When it rains, people stay home.”

Simpatico will employ heaters and the roll-down sides to keep the outdoor section of the restaurant open through the shoulder season. The restaurant will close just after the new year, and will reopen again in mid-March in order to participate in April’s Newport Restaurant Week.

Another new player on the local dining scene this year was Tallulah’s Tacos at The Shack at Dutch Harbor. The renowned Newport restaurant offered a variety of Mexican offerings including many different kinds of tacos and burritos. According to manager Neil Manacle, it was a great first year for the enterprise.

“It’s been outstanding,” he said. “Better than we ever expected.”

One of the most popular items on the menu at Tallulah’s was the burrito bowl, a surprise to Manacle, who thought the tacos would be the main attraction.

Tallulah’s will remain open through Columbus Day weekend but with a shortened schedule: Wednesdays through Sundays, with breakfast served on the weekends. Manacle hopes to return for a second season next year.

One of Jamestown’s greatest success stories this summer was Spinnakers, which has been operated by Mike Ridge for the last nine years. Ridge said the summer of 2013 was the best ever for his Ferry Wharf restaurant, and the long lines for ice cream during events like the Fourth of July fireworks would attest to that. Ridge said the day of the East Ferry spectacular was the single best day in the history of café.

“This has to be our best summer yet,” Ridge said. “The business was phenomenal. It was a lot of fun. There was some great weather and good crowds. It was just a great combination that came together for this summer.”

Spinnakers will remain open through the Christmas tree lighting in December, and will reopen on the first Saturday in April.

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