By Max Sullivan
Hampton Beachcomber, August 15, 2014
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Beachcomber and Seacoast Online.]
Seaside Chop employee Layna Reola and customers Kacie Connors and
Grace Brogan. [Max Sullivan photo]
HAMPTON BEACH – A glance down Ocean Boulevard shows a wide variety of food shops but a number of them make dieters and healthy eaters panic and cringe.
“All my friends that come to the beach down here, they all bring pack lunches because there’s only fried dough and other stuff like that,” Amanda Dwyer, 18, said.
But on June 23, Hampton Beachgoers gained an alternative to fried dough, beach pizza and cheese fries on the Boulevard when Seaside Chop opened for business in the Hampton Beach Casino complex. The new shop offers patrons fresh salads, wraps and sandwiches, ingredients all prepared in-house and cooked the night before.
Dwyer, one of the shop’s employees, said it makes a difference to people like her friends who seek that alternative.
“(My friends) love that this is here,” Dwyer said. “They think it’s super.”
Donnie Miller, who owns the Casino’s Hampton Family Fun Center with his father, Donald, said he is also glad to have the option of a healthy lunch.
“It’s nice to have a healthy food (vendor),” Miller said. “Most of the beach is less healthy – fried doughs, French fries, sausages. I come here every day … it’s nice to grab a salad or a fresh sandwich or something like that.”
Seaside Chop’s owner, Russell Carroll, said he was eager to fill that niche.
“(Seaside Chop) is a different concept than I think they have here (in Hampton Beach),” Carroll said.
Seaside Chop has taken the “build your own” approach that is found in food places like Chipotle and Fuddruckers. Employees offer customers a choice of the standard vegetables, a variety of dressings and meats that include chicken, tuna, roast beef and steak. The produce, he said, is bought from local farmers markets while the meat is cooked nightly in the shop’s oven.
“Last night, I put in our own 20-30 pound roast beef, which we marinated and put a dry rub on it. That came out today, and we’re cutting it fresh today,” Carroll said.
Carroll said he also drew inspiration from the “build your own” food vendors that are common in bigger cities like New York, where two chains, Chop’t and Just Salad, have used that format to gain popularity.
Carroll has always considered himself a “foodie.” Since he was a teenager, he’s dreamt of owning a food shop. The idea motivated him to get his college degree in business, but that led him to the banking industry, followed by a career as a high school economics teacher.
Last summer, though, Carroll started reconsidering the food industry. His kids were growing older and becoming independent, freeing up summers off from teaching. He figured it was time to give it a shot. That October, he contacted the Casino office manager to set up a meeting to look for a space. By the New Year, papers were signed and construction was underway.
Carroll said he's covered his costs and happy with his first month, but the long-term goal is to draw the faithful customer base that places like Blink's Fry Dough and Sanborn's Fine Candies have gained on the beach over the years.
"I think with any new business, you struggle with name recognition," Carroll said.