We all know it’s not easy running a business—it’s a giant responsibility with no quitting time! Owning and maintaining a thriving business is really challenging, especially when you live in a seasonal area like Cape Cod and the Islands.
We’re proud to say that WeNeedaVacation.com has been around for 20 years, and we have our thousands of homeowners and vacationers to thank for that - thank you! - and we hope to be around for another 20+ years! In the meantime, we’d like to take some time to dedicate some blog posts to other local Cape Cod businesses that are celebrating milestones...hooray for successful businesses on the Cape!
The first business we’d like to extend kudos to is Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar of Eastham, that is celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. I sat down with owner, Nathan Nickerson III, and picked his brain about the past 40 years.
Q: Take us back to opening day in 1977. What were you thinking/feeling those first moments, just before the doors opened?
A: My then wife and I were as nervous as heck, are you kidding me? We were 25 years old, and the only experience I had was working in my grandmother and aunt’s restaurant down the street. My experience there was washing dishes and drinking frappes and Shirley temples . . .it was fun, I loved it. It was called Bill’s Place.
Gertrude’s Beach Box, the building that would become Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar
Q: Why did you choose to have a carhop type of restaurant?
A: Well, at the time, Happy Days was the hot #1 show, and they had “Arnold’s Restaurant” that they filmed some scenes in. So we thought we’d do a take-off on that because it was so popular, and we named our place Arnold’s Drive-In . We had the carhops, the 50s music, the hula hoops, just to get people in the door. And it worked! We got them in quick.
Q: When did Arnold’s evolve into a clam shack, and how did that happen?
A: It was a slow evolution. Once we started getting busy, I added the lobsters and steamers and beer and wine. There was just no way we could carhop that. Seafood was the way to go on Cape Cod.
Q: Who/what inspires you, business-wise?
A. The owners of [the now closed] Kadee’s Clam Bar. That was an absolutely beautiful place, and they did everything perfectly! I’ve tried my best to emulate that best I could.
Q: What, from your business, gives you the feeling of most satisfaction?
A. Ohh, the closing day! And also, what I really enjoy, are the kids that come from different countries, all these different personalities and futures they have. Seeing all these kids from other countries and knowing that we all have, pretty much, the same goal in mind: peace, family and enough money to live a decent life.
Q: Do you have any advice for new entrepreneurs thinking of opening a restaurant on Cape Cod?
A. My first response is DON’T. Cape Cod is so unique—it’s a very, very short season. Even the best chefs/restaurants have a hard time making it. It’s just very, very difficult when it’s a 10 week season. But, if you’re going to do it, buy a VERY small place with A LOT of parking. Something you can expand as you grow. Don’t go into a big place and think you’re just going to hit it off. Keep it simple. Keep it clean. Buy the best food you possibly can because the public, they’re not stupid. And those lines we have aren’t because I’m such a nice guy.
Q: What’s your favorite thing off the menu?
A. Ice cream. I’m addicted to ice cream.
Q: What is something you want everyone to know about your establishment that they might not know already?
A. That I’m a giver. [Arnold’s donates to and hosts many charities/fundraisers.] And that I like the art of the deal. It’s fun to be challenged. This is not an easy business, and I enjoy the challenge – most of the time!
Congratulations, again, Nate! Thank you for taking the time to speak with me and share your story. Here's to wishing all Cape and Islands businesses, including Arnold's, many more. Stay tuned for our next Cape and Islands business interview celebrating another milestone.