Skippers Seafood and Chowder House Restaurants
Founded by Herb Rosen in Bellevue, Washington, in 1969. Skippers began serving fried fish, shrimp, and clams as well as chowders. By processing, cutting, and dressing their own fish, Skippers, Inc quickly gained notoriety for serving top quality fish and chips prepared in the northwest tradition.
The clam chowder recipe, more than ordinary, won several awards early on, and became a guest favorite. People in the Puget Sound area would line up at the neighborhood Skippers to experience the now legendary “Tuesday All You Can Eat Fish, Chips, and Chowder!” This early success led the chain to experience rapid growth as new locations were opened in several western states and British Columbia. By the mid 1980′s Skippers was at it’s peak of success and grown to over 200 restaurants in the Pacific Northwest.
In 1989, after 20 years of success in the fish and chips business Herb Rosen sold the seafood chain to east coast based National Pizza Company – the nations largest franchiser of Pizza Hut restaurants. NPC also purchased Tony Roma’s BBQ Ribs. Managing from the East Coast NPC shifted focus from a high quality fish cut and dressed in house to several versions of a freezer to fryer fish, which many felt lacked the quality and flavor of the hand dressed fish. By sacrificing quality for convenience this led to public outcry as regular patrons demanded the original fish back. As a result, sales declined, and NPC was forced to close non performing units.
NPC operated Skippers until 1995 when the Pizza Hut giant decided to sell off the now struggling seafood chain. Skippers was purchased by Meridian Capital in 1995, bringing the ownership of the chain back to the Northwest.
From 1995 to 2001 Meridian Capital tried several ventures to attempt to bring the chain back to it’s former glory days.
The Skippers management team introduced a line of grilled entrée’s including grilled salmon, halibut, and chicken. Cheeseburgers, shakes, and smoothies were also introduced at this time. With some Skippers management teams at this time believing that possibly the Skippers brand name was outdated and the company image old and tired.
In a focused effort, an attempt at re imaging was made. Several Skippers units in the Seattle market were converted to a more modern concept, with an updated building remodel and a revamped menu – the units were called Seattle Fish and Chips. Even a full service location was opened in Northgate, Washington – The Seattle Crab Co.
More than just fish and chips, the Seattle Crab Co provided full table service, and a full menu of traditional northwest seafood favorites.
Unable still to stabilize the chains economic struggles, and declining guest counts – Meridian Capital was forced to close more units.
In 2002 Meridian Capital sold off the struggling seafood chain to a group of northwest investors. Under new ownership, the Skippers management team set out again to right the sinking ship. The team began by investing in updating the looks of it’s restaurants and an across the board re certification and re training of all the companies employees. Along with the re imaging a new modernized logo was introduced at this time. Skippers now operated stores in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Despite the efforts made by the new ownership team, the chain continued to struggle. At this time the ownership group was once again forced to close more units, and considerably down size the amount of staff in the home office, and corporate field staff.
On December 12th, 2006, Skippers, Inc. filed chapter 11 bankruptcy in U.S. court in Seattle, Washington in an effort to restructure the organization. Restructuring failed, and Skippers, Inc was liquidated on June 29th, 2007.
Of the 58 stores remaining after Skippers, Inc initially filed for bankruptcy, more than 30 were sold to various individuals and corporate interests. When the sales of the individual units and closures was finalized , Skippers, Inc , ceased to exist as a corporation.
Following the bankruptcy liquidation, individual Skippers restaurants resumed business under private ownership as non exclusive licensees. Currently, Skippers and Seafood Chowder House restaurants is a loosely affiliated chain of quick service seafood restaurants doing business in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. There are now in excess of 30 stores operating under the banner of Starway Restaurants, LLC. Which is the current parent license holder. The current licensees, many of which are long time Skippers operators are committed to success, and seeing the chain regain it’s fallen legacy. Skipper’s licensees are committed to serving quality seafood, cooked to order, in a fun, friendly, and clean environment!
Marsh Restaurant Group/ Hazel Dell Skippers – Owner
Hired at Grants Pass Skippers 201 on November 13th 1993.