Saving Southport’s Shack

In June of last year, “06880” wandered over the border to report on Southport Beach.

Staples Class of 2004 grad Hunter King and his brothers, Carter and Parker, had just won a bid for the concession stand there. They invested $30,000 — and considerable sweat — into transforming the 66-year-old “shack” into a unique dining experience.

They sourced food from local farmers, dairymen and ranchers. The non-traditional — but delicious — beach menu included garlic herb marinated shrimp skewers, quesadillas, lobster tacos, chicken chimichangas, bacon jam burgers and hormone-and-preservative-free hot dogs.

“King’s Kitchen” became the go-to concession stand. Connecticut Magazine named it #28 on its Top 100 Places in the State list.

Hunter King, in his Southport Beach kingdom.

Hunter King, in his Southport Beach kingdom last summer.

But in October, Hurricane Sandy struck. The wooden shack was knocked off its foundation, and floated 30 feet across Pequot Avenue.

Thought undamaged, Fairfield’s Parks and Rec Department told Hunter on May 1 that he could not use the building. The town said FEMA regulations required a new foundation, 13 feet above wave height — and a handicap ramp 156 feet long.

With less than a month to go before opening, Hunter agreed to service his contract using a vending cart.

The contract called for the town to supply a building, water, power and wastewater services. But power was not restored until July 8.

The health inspector limited the menu to 4 items — with no coffee or breakfast food allowed.

Southport Beach.

Southport Beach.

The town put the shack up for sale. Hunter was the sole bidder, at $450 — the amount raised at a “Save the Shack” pig roast fundraiser held at the beach.

Given just 1 week to act, the Kings went to work. But jacking up the building, and securing permits, trucking and a final home for the shack was too daunting.

Richard — their 59-year-old father — fell from the building during the jacking process, and spent 10 days in ICU.

The town has threatened numerous times to crush the building. Word on the Southport streets — and the side of the building — is that it will be demolished tomorrow (Monday, August 12).

Southport beach

Southport residents believe once the shack is moved, it will no longer be grandfathered in. All food service at the beach would be eliminated.

Frustrated by what they called “the lack of transparency and duplicitousness on the part of the Town, no indications of their future plans for the beach, and heavy handed treatment without real regulatory notice or statutory imperative,” a group of beach lovers is urging Fairfield citizens to contact the first selectman (firstselectmanffld@town.fairfield.ct.us), Parks and Rec director (glombardo@town.fairfield.ct.us), and Parks and Rec Commission chair (fairfieldnational@yahoo.com).

The group asks to be cced: SaveTheShack@gmail.com.

Time, they note, is very, very short.

15 responses to “Saving Southport’s Shack

  1. Michael Calise

    Help me with this
    Federal Empty Minds – I need a word for the A

  2. Lori Hashizume

    I totally get why 06880 would support this operation. Hometown entrepreneurs, organic farm-to-table beach cuisine, David vs. Goliath. But I’m in 06890 and pass by this shack almost daily. When you wrote about their opening last summer, I was excited to have a unique dining experience available in my neighborhood. One experience was all it took. The food was great, but they abruptly shut the grill after I placed my lunch order saying the health inspector was on his way and they needed to clean up. The cook was admonished to keep the fish refrigerated. Plus, they charged my friend more than the posted price because they didn’t have time to change another employee’s mistake. Not exactly reasons to keep coming back. But they have a right to run their business they way they want to. Southport is not going to get any recognition for being the most beautiful beach in the state, but nevertheless, it’s our beach, small and quiet with some nice views. The Kings Brothers operation has spoiled it for me with their “stuff” strewn all over the place, and they seem to keep expanding their territory without regard for what their contract provides. It is not a pretty scene down there. They’ve been given ample time to clean up their act, but week after week, it’s been business as usual. Yes, please write to the officials and urge them to enforce their contract with Kings Brothers.

  3. lorraine harrison

    is there anything a Westport resident can do? I wish we had such a fabulous vendor on our beach…

  4. Jo Ann Miller

    It is a shame that Southport residents did not step up to the plate to help
    the king brothers. In Westport when the small beach market Elvira’s ran into trouble and was about to be closed down the local neighbors and beach community stepped up to the plate and saved them. What a difference a zip code means. Ms. Hashizume you do not seem to appreciate
    the fact a young man believed enough in Southport to make the investment of his time, money, and spirit. I am sure $30,000 was a great deal of money to the King family. Maybe the expression “Is it true Greenwich speaks to Southport, but Southport speaks to nobody” is true.
    If that is the case then I would recommend to the King brother’s they should
    not waste their time, effort, and SPIRIT on a zip code that seems not to appreciate their efforts.

  5. Lori Hashizume

    If you don’t know me personally, please don’t pull the elitist card on me. I don’t have to go into the many ways Southport residents generously support neighborhood entities and countless causes beyond our community. I’m thrilled someone “believed in Southport” enough to set up shop here, but perhaps there are reasons more serious than knee-jerk assumptions that the King brothers did not galvanize support for saving the shack. Elvira’s is a beloved institution in Westport. We have ours in Southport, too, but the beach shack operated by the King brothers is just not in the same league.

  6. Brenda Ungerland

    Sure. How about Westport residents who love this Shack can petition to have it moved and permanently planted on one of their town beaches.

  7. Brenda Ungerland

    [to clarify] …my comment was in response to Lorraine Harrison’s question: What can Westport residents do? [Please see above]
    If they regard this vendor as so fabulous, why not petition to have the Shack moved to one of their beaches to they can enjoy the experience first hand?

  8. When you go to the beach, the sea air and swimming makes you hungry! What could be better than a nice, small, neat, creatively decorated concession stand selling good food at Southport Beach 5 or 6 months of the year? Health Dept. checks them out, we enjoy! BUT please, King Bros. keep it nice, small , clean, and neat.

  9. I’m with Lori on this one. I go to Southport Beach every weekend and this place is anything but a “Southport institution”. I love the idea of a delicious food stand at the beach and I commend these boys for the idea, but this is a poorly run operation. Long, long wait for even the most simple order (35 minutes for a slushee…35 minutes!) and they are slowly taking over more and more of the beach.

    Every other restaurant in town has to follow Fairfield’s very strict zoning rules, and this place has been lucky to get away with as much as it has. I also think they’ve come off as anything but professional in their comments to the local media. For the record, I would like to see them succeed, but I haven’t been impressed so far. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

    Lastly, Jo Ann’s comment about Southporters is completely ignorant. Southport residents regularly “step up to the plate” for many, many projects, businesses and charities large and small. Before attacking the residents, consider that maybe King’s Kitchen hasn’t left hungry beach goers so satisfied.

  10. Werner Liepolt

    Underwhelming support from 06890? Too bad the Kings couldn’t seem to deliver.

  11. UPDATE: I am told the shack was moved today to a private residence in Green’s Farms.

  12. I believe I spotted the shack on the property on Beachside Ave. just opposite the entrance to GFA. I was wondering why the building had
    ‘Demolition’ and ‘Town of Fairfield’ painted across the front since it was clearly sitting in the Town of Westport. Your post help 2 and 2 together.

  13. I ate there four times last season and once this summer and actually had delicious food and friendly experiences. And the food was delivered timely. I was happy to learn about them thru 06880.

  14. Bobbie Herman

    I am a resident of Fairfield, and wrote to Mike Tetreau the First Selectman. This is the reply I received —

    Storm Sandy really changed the rules in terms of what we can and can’t do in the flood zones. The new guidelines would not allow the town to rebuild the Shack as it was. We did honor the request of the Kings to allow it to be saved and moved. We allowed multiple extensions to the contract to give them more time. We have received many calls and emails requesting that the Shack be removed from the beach and the natural beauty of the beach restored without the commercial signs and trailer. I am sure you have seen some of these in the news media.

    We do hope the Kings can find a location for their restaurant. Southport beach was meant for a concession stand for beachgoers. It is not the best location for a restaurant.

    Thanks for your interest and concern. All the best, Mike