Why Small Businesses Matter
Shop small, do big things for your community
Why Small Businesses Matter puts a spotlight on the local merchants who donate their time, talent, goods, and services for the betterment of our community. The shop local movement spreads virally as local businesses who are “tagged” have the opportunity to share their story!
You're IT Ripka's Beach Cafe!
Four questions with Clyde & Kristin Ripka, owners of Ripka's Beach Cafe.
Why did you start your business?
I have been in the restaurant industry for 49 years- literally. We had a try at Bulls Head Market which ended up at one point with 7 operations of varying types. The opportunity to take over the “Concession” at Calf Pasture arose and I looked at it in a different light. Having been in this business for that long I can honestly say this is the most fun I have ever had!
My objective was to keep it very casual (as it was just basically a hot dog stand since 1958, open Memorial Day to Labor Day) but add the elements of “real” food. The views are not matched anywhere. My tagline is this – from a convenience to a destination.
The clientele, my guests range from barebacked skateboarders to Polo-clad middle-aged folks who look for value with good food and drink. Exceeding expectations in a venue such as this is relatively easy, as most do not expect what they can get here. Fresh local oysters, lobsters, lobster rolls as well as fries and dogs.
Best selling product/service?
Hands down it is basic chicken fingers and fries for the mere sake of volume, however, we sold more oysters and lobster rolls in this last season than the previous two combined. The freshness of having seafood from right off our beach is unsurpassed. Runner-up is the hot lobster roll.
How many people do you employ? Any youth or seniors from the community?
I am sitting here right now as the only full-time employee, and a few scattered about on nice weekends…to 35 people in the summer. More than 75% of these are school-aged kids and with that, more than 50% it is their first job. I have had staff from their senior year in high school through their 4 years in college and still work with me. Teaching young kids (16 and up) about responsibility, commitment, teamwork and camaraderie is a challenge but it is one worth pursuing. I adore my staff and they are my extended family.
How many local businesses do you use to support your business (products and services) and can you name them?
The most critical is that of the Copps Island Oyster Company. I am extremely proud in serving oysters and shellfish that is often times dropped off at 3 in the afternoon from that days catch. Others we support are the Norwalk Seaport Association, with which we have been doing their clambakes of Sheffield Island for the last decade; Down Under Kayaks & SUP, with whom we partner to provide clam bakes for their excursions to the islands…. My objective is to always involve the community and develop strong bonds within this community. I participate as well as develop fundraisers of all types. We are currently undergoing and finishing up the 2nd annual “Ripka’s Giving Trees” in support of our National winners the Norwalk High School Marching Bears.
The beach is focal points of many groups from Whittinghman Cancer Center, Rally for Pancreatic Cancer, William Raevis Cancer Walk, to mention a few. We hosted the Norwalk Senior center annual luncheon for about 90 adults with the vast majority of the expense as a donation. To date, we have donated more than $15, 000 this year in goods and services for a variety of groups.
Ripka's Beach Cafe is located at 99 Calf Pasture Beach Road in Norwalk. Visit them online here.
HamletHub thanks Fairfield County Bank for making our Why Small Businesses Matter series possible!