By Liz Miller
Hampton Beachcomber, June 26, 2015
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Beachcomber and Seacoast Online.]
Jake and Maura Fleming celebrate 20 years of restaurant
ownership at the Purple Urchin. [Liz Miller Photo]
HAMPTON - Maura and Jake Fleming are celebrating 20 years of owning and operating one of Hampton Beach's most popular restaurants, the Purple Urchin. In the past two decades, the two have learned a lot - about the beach, the restaurant business, and even themselves.
Back in the day, the site of the restaurant on the second floor of the Casino was the old movie theatre. Maura Fleming's father, who worked at the Casino, is the one who realized the potential of the spot as a restaurant. He got Maura on board and turned this vision into the Purple Urchin.
Growing popularity caused them to utilize the space next door, turning it into a patio in 1999. Eventually, Maura's husband Jake joined the team.
"We've seen so many changes," Maura Fleming said. "There's a lot of family still involved in the beach, and its stayed with the families."
A lot of what Fleming enjoys about her work, it turns out, is built around Hampton Beach
being a family spot.
"I always say to families, I wish I took pictures of the kids when they were in strollers -- and now they're off to college," she said, noting that one of the most rewarding aspects of the business is having repeat clientele.
Her staff, too, tends to stick around. Their chef has stayed with them for more than 14 years. Due to the fact that it is a seasonal restaurant, Fleming likes to hire locals to work the summer - many of whom are students home from school.
"The exciting part about a seasonal business is that you have the opportunity to create something new," Fleming said. They change the menu pretty often, keeping it "fresh and updated."
One dish that's sure to stick around is the ginger seared scallops with lobster risotto. Their best seller, "it's been a signature dish on the menu for years and years," Fleming said. "People always want to make sure it's still on our menu, it's something they do tradition-wise.
"It's always a learning curve in the restaurant business because it's always changing.
You have to keep up with the times, know when to change your menu, what market to target," Fleming said.
Thus far, it seems that she and her husband have done a pretty stand up job.
The Purple Urchin continues to draw large crowds of beachgoers each season, so much so that one of Fleming's aspirations is to expand her catering business and even open up a year-round location.
For now, she's just working on a successful summer season. "I really love the sandcastles - it's the real start of the season," Fleming said while the sculptors were at work right outside
the restaurant. Every year, the Purple Urchin holds a sponsor party after the awards ceremony.