Joey Scores At The Shore

It was the dream summer job:  working at the Compo Beach concession stand.  Back in the day, it was run by Chubby Lane — an outpost of his Post Road hamburger restaurant.

The ramshackle shed — located where the volleyball courts are now — was the place to see and be seen.  (You didn’t even need a sticker; you parked right in front.)

I flipped burgers, fried fries and poured sodas for a couple of teenage summers.  Like I said, it was a dream job — except when Chubby’s kids wandered in at 7:59 p.m., seconds before closing, and ordered food as soon as we’d cleaned the grill.

It’s now a few several many years later.   Chubby’s gave way to Arcudi’s, then another concessionaire no one remembers.  Since 1989, Joey Romeo has run the place.  He upgraded it from a stand to a restaurant.  He added menu items, lengthened the hours, stretched out the calendar.

But some things never change.  Something about eating at the beach still makes food taste special.  It’s still an insanely weather-dependent business.

And it’s still a great job for high school and college students.

Joey Romeo, by the shore.

Joey comes by his burger chops naturally.  His father ran the food concessions at Cummings Beach and Cole Island in Stamford; his uncle spent many years as the concessionaire at Greenwich’s Tod’s Point.

Growing up, Joey worked at the beaches — and loved it.

He became the 1st tenant after the town of Westport renovated the old bathhouses, and moved the concession stand to its present location.  So far, he’s the only one.

What’s kept him here?  “I love the water.  I love being here in the summer.  I love Compo Beach!” he says.

And beach-goers love Joey.

For one thing, he’s got great food.

For another, he listens to those customers.  Lobster rolls (now one of his most popular items), fish and chips, Boar’s Head cold cuts, portobello mozzarella sandwiches — those and many more selections resulted directly from requests.

To serve those customers, Joey’s now opens earlier (9 a.m.) and closes later (9 p.m.) each summer.  He fires up the grill in late March, and is there on weekends through November — sometimes beyond.

Kelly Petropulos, Paul Van Zanten and Sam Reiner carry on the Compo concession tradition.

The concessionaire is a firm believer in “buy local.”  When area resident Adrian Pace brought over Forte — a new healthy, high-protein gelato — Joey snapped it up.

There’s local art and photography on the walls, local T-shirts and postcards at the counter.

He even sells Melissa & Doug toys.  Hey, they’re local too.

But — behind the lobster rolls and trendy toys — Joey’s is still a beach joint.

“Honestly, I haven’t seen much change — in my customers or employees — over the years,” Joey says.

“If you look around, it’s really no different than it was 20 years ago.”

This doesn’t change either:   talking about the weather.

“The summer started slowly.  We had a wet spring, but since then it’s been very good,” Joey says.

“People complain about the heat, but it’s better than rain.  Any day it’s not raining, I’m happy.”

The same words could have come straight from the mouths of Joey’s father and uncle.

Or Chubby Lane, back when I was working the grill for countless Compo customers.

Plus Chubby’s @#$%^&* kids.

11 responses to “Joey Scores At The Shore

  1. For those who lament that “mom & pop” establishments have dwindled on Main Street, Joey’s is a shining example of the fact that they can be found spread out in other parts of town–in this instance, the beach. Joey is a great guy and has done a wonderful job with the beach concession; a friend of ours visiting on a summer’s weekend not long ago said that she had never seen a beach concession stand with such an expansive menu or so nicely maintained.

  2. The Dude Abides

    I note the nostalgia from the Professor regarding his summer job at Chubby’s and he remembers it well. It is nice to see high school kids still out there working during summer break and continue the traditiions set forth decades prior. I worked at Mitchell’s and Westport Recreation during my two summers and enjoyed the experience as well as the paycheck. Not sure if it is the economy or a culturiological change but I do not see that many teenagers out there working any more????

  3. Nancy Powers Conklin

    Westport teenagers DON’T have to work anymore like we did in the 60s & 70s! Their parents give them everything they need. I too, worked at Chubby’s at the beach. It was my first job at the end of my sophomore year at Staples. Then, when summer ended, I moved up to the restaurant on the Post Road. I never remember Chubby’s kids coming in at the last minute. I do remember them coming in with their mother to eat but, it was always in the middle of the lunch hour or dinner hour. I guess they were too young to come in by themselves then. It was great working at the beach and at the Post Road restaurant. Chubby taught me so much. And, I also babysat for his three kids.

    • Thanks, Nancy — much appreciated. In defense of today’s teenagers — first, many of them do work. Many others spend time volunteering. Others take remedial or advanced courses during the day. With the absence of night life here, there are far fewer night-time opportunities to work. Having spent a lot of time around teenagers — and been one myself — I think (my opinion only!) that today’s kids are an extremely hard-working, goal-oriented and great group. And they have a lot more pressure on them than we ever did!

  4. I will BOW to your expert opinion, Professor and I do NOT agree with Ms. Conklin’s belief that all teenagers here are given everything. I will make the supposition that MOST Americans believe that their talents are above that of a minimum wage job. A recent discussion with a restauranteer confirmed this with his statement: “In the 20 odd years I have run my establishment, not one American has come in asking for a dishwasher or kitchen staff job. And I needed help too.” It is one reason that we haven’t done anything about illegal immigration in this country.

    • Richard Lawrence Stein

      That quote is from Anthony Bordain on Real Time with Bill Mahr…. And as a former dishwasher and now caterer … It is a true statement

      • The Dude Abides

        Thank you RLS. In the summer of ’72, fresh out of the service, I was a dishwasher/prep cook at the Holiday Inn in Darien for 12 hours a day. Long hours but I got my meals and was too tired to spend my paycheck. Saved enough for a semester tuition doing that. I also met my ex-wife . . . we won’t go there.

  5. Geoff Ferguson

    Be grateful Stew Leonard’s didn’t take over. Have you been to its concession stand at Calf Pasture Beach? No comment!

  6. No, tell us what it is like!