Take a Walk in the Boardwalk

By Betty Gagne

Seacoast Scene, Wednesday, June 22, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of Seacoast Scene.]

Have you been to the Boardwalk Inn & Café yet? If you have, then you're already familiar with this friendly, fun place, with its delicious food and gracious staff -- and if you've been around Hampton Beach in the last 28 years, then you probably know Jim Trainor, owner/operator of the Boardwalk Inn and Café.

"What do you think? Isn't this great?" Jim sits on the patio outside his establishment and smiles. You can tell he's pleased with his latest venture. It's a gorgeous beach day, the sun is bright, and people are streaming up and down the sidewalk. "Here we are, it's early June -- everybody on the beach is opening up a little earlier and wanting to stay open later in the season," he says. Jim feels that Hampton Beach has thrived for years on its family-run businesses, and wants to join the ranks of those who've made their household names around the beach for repeated generations.

It's a story Jim enjoys telling, how his parents met on Hampton Beach "after the war. My Mom rented a cottage over in the island section," he says, pointing toward the south end of the beach. "She was from Lawrence, Massachusettes. My Dad was from Haverhill, and used to come up here in the summer."

This baby boomer started working at the Hampton Beach Casino when he was 20 years old, opening up his first takeout stand. Jim has now spent a good part of his life working in fast food. He currently owns Boardwalk Fries, but admits that the Boardwalk Inn & Café is his first stab at a full service restaurant and definitely his first try at running an inn.

Previously Ye Colonial Inn, this circa 1920's building underwent some major renovations over the past winter, and Jim says he's got lots more to do to make the place what he wants it to be. "Give me three years," he laughs. In the works are plans to extend the second floor deck, and to do some remodeling in the rooms. Two Russian students are hard at work on this day, giving the second floor railings a fresh coat of paint. The two students, Roma Chameev, and Andrey Alexeev, also work in the cafe.

The Boardwalk Inn & Café has a staff of around 50, which includes full- and part-time help -- and some of the staff has worked with Jim in his past endeavors. Bob Drinwater has been in the lodging business since 1977 -- and began working with Jim in 1979 when Jim opened,"The Natural Tickle," a healthy eatery that specialized in fresh salads and fruit drinks.

Chef Tom Matheney has 27 years of experience and was once part of the Old Salt when it was located on Ocean Boulevard. "Fried seafood is our # 1 seller," he says, "because people come to Hampton Beach for seafood." The seafood offerings are delivered daily, fresh from suppliers, and all the clams and shellfish are picked up every morning from the shucking houses. "Tom believes that you must give people what they want, and Jim agrees. "It's really a simple formula, and that's why it's works so well." Jim tells us. "People are on vacation -- they want to be happy -- so you've got to be nice to the people," he says.

In order to make people happy, you have to be happy yourself; and Wendy Clark, who's been at the Boardwalk since it opened in April, travels all the way from Rochester, NH, to work there because "business is really good," she says. This Mother of three works varied shifts and loves her bartending job.

Jim's brother Danny can also be found at the Boardwalk most days. He helped out with the construction work during the winter, and continues to be involved with different segments of the business. As he sits at the bar (he's off today) drinking a Margarita, he says being at the Boardwalk is fun. "It's something to do," he says. He recommends readers to stop in for a Margarita, which he calls "Wendy's specialty."

Jake Naimovich wears several hats at the Boardwalk. His official title is Building Manager/Maintenance Man. "When they tell me to go fix it, I do it," he says.

Food server Mary Hart will work at the Boardwalk for the busy summer. She's a sophomore at Bates College, and is looking forward to an exciting season at the beach.

The entire staff shares a camaraderie that spells "Family." As they move around the place, it's obvious they like their work, and also their boss.

And Jim, well, he's like a little kid in a room full of toys. "Opening this place is like tearing open Christmas presents," he says, smiling. "You can take these old buildings and keep them going. I mean, look at this beach," he says, "it's one of the nicest beaches around. It just gets into your blood," he adds.

Jim is excited about the location of his business, as it sits right next to the Casino at the corner of F Street. Because of this, he plans to stay open during the same time span the Casino does. "it makes it more of a resort," he tells us. "Now that the weather's broken, things are really taking off," he says. "We want to be upscale. Everyone who owns businesses on the beach is doing a fabulous job making the beach a better facility for the people. And that's because the business owners are generations of family who are always at their places." He looks up toward the North end of they beach. "Look at the Grandmaisons," he says. "You can go into the Ashworth any time of the day or night, and you will find them within. Look at Playland Arcade - it's been owned by the Kennedy family forever." He rattles of the names of several other traditional, familyowned properties on Hampton Beach. "We all have an obligation to the people," he says. "We need to continue to upgrade the commercial side of the beach."

Every year, Boardwalk Fries has a booth at the Seafood Festival. This year, Jim Trainor will feature 3 separate booths there, and the Boardwalk Café will provide the same delicious food they are becoming noted for at one of them. Massachusettes residents Melinda Johnson and Wes Hutchinson can vouch for the great food - they came into the Boardwalk Café twice on this day. After enjoying the coconut shrimp for an appetizer, they chose a scallop basket and chicken tenders for their lunch. When asked how the food was, Wes told us, "Everything was great - and the service was outstanding."

Take a walk in the Boardwalk and experience a piece of traditional Hampton Beach hospitality.