Spinnakers in Jamestown has long been a tradition for several Rhode Islanders in the summer. It's one of the best spots for some great ice cream. But this summer they are expanding their menu. One of the item includes Narragansett lager beer battered fried clam strips. Sounds tasty. Next time your around stop by and try them and end with one of their new cake bowl sundaes. Here's the full story in The Jamestown Press.
By Ken Shane
Mike Ridge has owned Spinnakers for seven years, but the East Ferry location has been a destination for ice cream lovers for a considerably longer period of time.
"I purchased it in 2004," Ridge said. "It had the name Spinnakers for a few years prior to that, but it has been in this particular location for about 30 years, under one name or another. It’s always been some sort of restaurant, bakery or ice cream store."
Prior to coming to Jamestown, Ridge was the proprietor of an ice cream store in New Hampshire, but the availability of Spinnakers was a powerful draw. "I came to Jamestown because of this particular property. It’s outstanding," he said.
Spinnakers is a seasonal restaurant, open from May 1 through Columbus Day each year. Ridge spends the rest of the year doing an even more important job. "I have a 6-year-old at home and I play Mr. Mom," he said. "That’s one of the reasons why this particular business was appealing. I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to do well enough to take the time off."
"The quality and value of the basic offerings is really the strong thing that we do day in and day out, along with customer service," Ridge added. "We are constantly looking for some twist each season to give everybody something to look forward to."
This year that twist comes in the form of a new ice cream product.
This year Ridge said that Spinnakers has introduced a line of cake bowl sundaes. He said it’s a freshly baked piece of cake that is baked in the shape of a bowl and fits a scoop of ice cream inside.
"Then we add some peanut, marshmallow and a variety of other toppings to create some pretty interesting combinations," he said. "It’s been pretty well received. It’s an extra little treat that we’ve been able to do this season."
Along with ice cream, Spinnakers also features items for lunch and dinner. This season the restaurand has began featuring Narragansett Beer-battered clam rolls.
"It’s something that we came across at the Boston Food Show last winter and took the opportunity to make sure that we could bring that in," he said. "So there’s something different on each side."
He said that his overall goal is to offer a high-quality product at an affordable price. When it comes to those quality products, Ridge expressed great pride in his ice cream line. "Our ice cream line is probably as good as you can get anywhere in the country, let alone the state," he said. "Our ice cream is from Richardson’s Dairy, which has consistently been ranked as one of the best ice creams in the country. It’s a family-run dairy and I’ve had a relationship with them for 15 years."
Although Spinnakers is popular with visitors to Jamestown, Ridge relies on his local customers. "It’s definitely a combination of locals and tourists, but the tourists are only here for a short period," he said. "I wouldn’t be able to keep this business going without a strong local following. They’re the backbone of the operation."
"There’s a really short, 8-to- 10-week season for the tourist business," Ridge continued. "It’s roughly from the Fourth of July until the end of August."
Spinnakers employs 15 to 20 people each year. He said that most of them are high school and college kids, and at least half of them are Jamestowners.
Ridge is keenly aware that diffi cult economic times call for close attention to detail in running his restaurant. "I think having a quality product is very important to making sure that somebody is willing to take the time to come to your establishment," he said. "Affordability is another important issue for us, so we keep a close eye on where our pricing lies relative to not only other restaurants, but what you can do at home."
Although food and supply costs continue to rise, Ridge is doing his best to hold the line on prices. He said some items have gone up as much as 30 percent during the recession.
"We’re obviously not in a position to raise our prices that much," he said. "This season I think that over half of our items have remained the same price as last year. Theotherssawa5to10percent increase. That’s for items that are a little more volatile, like coffee and seafood."
Although ice cream sales represent over 50 percent of Spinnakers’ business, the food business has grown rapidly in recent years. "When I first took over the business, ice cream represented over 90 percent of the business. I have grown my ice cream business by at least 20 percent every year. So what has obviously happened is that the food side of Spinnakers has increased exponentially."
Ridge said he thinks that Jamestown is one of the prettiest places on the planet.
"I grew up in the Midwest, so I longed for the day that I could see the seashore on more than just my annual pilgrimages to the beach. Moving to Rhode Island has been a real dream come true for me," he said.
Spinnakers is located at 3 East Ferry Wharf and is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.