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New London - Captain Scott's Lobster Dock on Hamilton Street took a pounding during Superstorm Sandy, but the 4 feet of water that inundated the building receded quickly, and the seasonal restaurant is expected to reopen April 1, a few weeks later than planned, after completing major repairs.
Tom Eshenfelder, who with sister Susan owns the restaurant and associated marina downtown, said the storm surge destroyed most of the electrical equipment in the building, which has been replaced with new devices, thanks to a quick insurance settlement expedited by Andy Levine of Levine Insurance. The dock and dozens of picnic tables on site were unaffected by the rising waters, though a walk-in cooler broke loose and moved about 15 feet and practically every wall in the building had to be mended.
"In 20 years, I never saw water in the building," Tom Eshenfelder said of the flood.
A lot of people in the region haven't heard about the storm's effect because of Captain Scott's isolated position on Shaw's Cove, Eshenfelder added. Luckily, the surge occurred two weeks after Captain Scott's had closed for the winter.
"It was perfect timing in a way," said Susan Eshenfelder.
"We took full advantage of the opportunity," said Tom, a former lobsterman. "We made lemonade out of lemons."
In addition to gaining new equipment, the Eshenfelders reconfigured space to create a larger kitchen. The extra space should allow customers to be served more quickly because more cooks can now fit into the space, the Eshenfelders said.
The restaurant, which seasonally employs many New London and Waterford high school students, often has huge lines in the summer clamoring for lobster rolls - both hot and cold, though the warmer variety is by far the favorite.
"People come down for the seafood," Tom Eshenfelder said, though the restaurant also has burgers, fries and ice cream, among other summertime favorites.
This year will be the 18th season at Captain Scott's, which is generally open from March to October and includes a separate fish market and 45-slip, year-round marina. Last year's mild weather encouraged the family to open up earlier than usual, Feb. 26.
This year, the Eshenfelders had been hoping for a March 22 opening, but the extent of the storm damage forced a more realistic April 1 date. Four or five subcontractors were still working on the building just a few weeks before the scheduled opening.
"New London has been lucky; we haven't had a bad storm here in a long time." Tom Eshenfelder said. "This should teach everyone about what a real hurricane will do."
Name: Captain Scott's Lobster Dock
Address: Hamilton Street, New London
Owner: Tom Eshenfelder
Years in business: 18
Employees: 30 to 35 in summer