Sister-in-laws Kari and Melissa Huddleston didn’t grow up in Long Beach; they married into it. But in the same way they’d adopted Pacific County as their home, they took ownership of a local “quick-bite” restaurant and made it their own.
Melissa bought Captain Bob’s Chowder from the captain himself. By then the business was built up and ready to go–the only thing missing was the chowder itself. Luckily, Melissa knew someone who loved to cook, who was willing to jump into business alongside her.
Enter Kari, who now spends her time in the kitchen while Melissa focuses on customers. Together they’ve created a warm and welcoming space, with many unique chowders to try.
We spoke with Kari Huddleston about their experience running a restaurant. Here’s what she shared with us:
Why did you choose to start a business in Pacific County?
I started coming to Long Beach with my mom and children in the early ’80s and I’d always wanted to retire here. Meanwhile, my sister-in-law, Melissa, has been on the peninsula for 35 years. She’s been working in the restaurant business for most of that time.
Our husbands were raised here and left when they turned 18, saying they would never come back. But here they are, married to two, very much not-retired women living the dream!
Where did the idea for your business come from?
We were fortunate to have been friends with the original owners. They had built it up, made it successful, then decided to sell. When they put it up for sale, Melissa decided she needed to own Captain Bob’s. She jumped right in, then dragged me out of retirement and into co-owning the restaurant.
Melissa is very customer-oriented while I’m the one who loves to cook, so we make a great team.
What was your mission when you started your business?
To serve the community great food at an affordable price. The tourists make us financially successful, but when the off-season comes we want to accommodate the locals.
How do you view your role in the community?
We’re big on helping the community in any way possible. For example, we try to donate our leftover chowders to His Supper Table, to feed the homeless here on the peninsula. There is no reason for anyone to go hungry when we have plenty of food.
How did you come up with the name of your business?
We bought Captain Bob’s from Captain Bob himself and see no reason to change it. There’s no reason to fix something that isn’t broken. So we bought the name, the reputation, and the phone number.
How do you define success?
At the end of a long day or a long week, if you can lay your head down on your pillow and know that you helped as many people as you could, you are successful.
Success is donating what you can, handing a cup of chowder to someone that seems down on their luck, or seeing the look on customers’ faces when you give them something extra at no charge.
What is unique about your business?
I’m not sure that we are unique, but we are two overweight grandmas that happened to be sisters (in-laws to be honest, but who needs labels anyway). We run the restaurant together five days a week.
And you could say we have some unique chowders. We have over 15 different flavors, including cheeseburger, corned beef and cabbage, chicken enchilada, and, of course, clam chowder. And we’re looking for new recipes every day.
If you had one piece of advice to offer someone starting a business in Pacific County, what would it be?
Work as hard as you can through the tourist months, and plan ahead for winter.
Once you see the locals popping their heads out, you know business is slowing down. That’s when the community comes together to survive. This might be a small town where everyone probably knows all your business, but as a community we have a huge heart.
For any aspiring business owner in Pacific County, here are a few key takeaways from Kari and Melissa’s experience:
- Work with someone who complements you and your skills.
- Do what you can for the people around you. If you have food to spare, feed your neighbors.
- If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it; Don’t waste the parts of the business that work in your favor.
- Brace for the chaos of tourist season, and prepare for the slow-going of winter.