Skippers celebrates 15 years; looks toward second location

East Lyme — April 21 marked the 15th anniversary of the opening of Skippers Seafood Restaurant, and to celebrate, owner Lefty Tsiropoulos is going big.

On Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m., he's holding a celebration with a live band, face painting and a clown, and giveaways of nearly 400 T-shirts. Raffles will present the opportunity to win a one-night stay at the Inn at Harbor Hill Marina, or a $200 gift card to Skippers.

Niantic Main Street will kick off the festivities with a ribbon-cutting.

Tsiropoulos also is planning a second Skippers location in Old Saybrook, with the goal of opening by the Fourth of July. He said he is under contract to buy the building at 688 Boston Post Road, previously a Pizza Hut.

"A lot of our customers come in every day and they're like, 'You need to open up in Old Saybrook, you need to open up in Old Saybrook,'" Tsiropoulos said. He added, "We owe them everything we have. All of our success is from our customers, and we follow their directions."

Tsiropoulos talks about his staff and patrons being like family, an attitude apparent in his habit of referring to restaurant operations using "we" rather than "I."

It was his love of socializing with people that birthed his dream of opening a restaurant, which he pursued after working in the restaurant industry in his native Norwalk.

He has family that lives in this area and always liked coming to Niantic — for the downtown area, for the beaches and for the people.

"It's a little bit more slowed down, and the people are a little bit nicer," he said.

Skippers became a year-round restaurant about a decade ago, setting it apart from seasonal seafood shacks. Last summer, Tsiropoulos added a new patio, which expanded the number of outdoor dining tables from five to 17.

Customer favorites include the lobster roll, fish and chips and clam strips. The seafood-averse crowd can order burgers, grinders, soups and salads.

A lot of Tsiropoulos' hires, he said, are high school students who often end up sticking with the job through college.

"Even though some people moved away, sometimes they come around, and the first stop is Skippers, and that feels good," he said.

Tsiropoulos laughs when he thinks about the little kids who came to Skippers shortly after its opening 15 years ago, because they're not so little anymore. They used to show up on bikes, and now they're driving cars.

To this day, Tsiropoulos says that if he can pay the bills, deliver a fresh product and stay reasonably priced, that's a win.

e.moser@theday.com

Business Snapshot

Business: Skippers Seafood Restaurant

Where: 167 Main St., Niantic

Owner: Lefty Tsiropoulos

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week

Menu: skippersseafood.com/index.php/our-menu

On Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m., there will be a ribbon-cutting celebration, a live band, face painting and a clown, raffles and giveaways of nearly 400 T-shirts.

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