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 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.
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.