*Video from 2019 Season*
SHANKS is the greatest new waterfront dining experience on the CT Shoreline, located in Clinton Harbor right at Harborside Marina in Clinton, CT. Our glorified "Food Boat" was created from a 1974 Bruno & Stillman 42 foot Commercial Lobster Boat, completely customized to house a state of the art commercial kitchen that is capable of cooking fresh seafood, lobster, burgers, and much more. We offer classic New England fry, healthy choices, and land-lubber options. The view and location is second to none, and all the food is made-to-order. The original boat came from The Sound School in New Haven, CT and was used as a research vessel for 20 years before decommissioning. The “Sounder” was transported from New Haven to Clinton in 2014 and the transformation took nearly a year to complete. Shanks now resides at Harborside Marina but is a fully transportable lobster boat!
We are opening May 24, 2023 for our 8th season and operating seasonally until September 4th, 2022 (weather permitting)! Private events until the end of September
Towing "Sounder" back to Harborside Marina
"I (John Benchimol) grew up on Long Island always working at yacht clubs and marinas (Hempstead Harbor Club, Sea Cliff Yacht Club, Oyster Bay Marine Center) as a kid. After I graduated college at The University of Albany, I took a job in Sales at a large marina on the Hudson River (Shady Harbor Marina, New Baltimore, NY) for a few years. Never having family in the “business,” I never thought I would be able to own a marina as they were mainly family run businesses. I took an opportunity and went into corporate sales for NYNEX (now Verizon) and was pretty successful, enough so to put some money away. During this time, my wife’s cousin, was working in NYC with a huge income job getting burned out so he and his wife (Greg and Joanne Slattery) decided to “move to the country” and buy a marina (Harborside Marina, Clinton, CT). After a few weeks, they consulted me for help with boat sales, marina operations, etc. I was extremely jealous that they could just buy a marina (basically, it was my dream). After almost 6 months, they hated it and wanted out in a bad way. It wasn’t sipping wine and boating as I think they expected. So, they called me to see if I wanted to buy it. My wife (Jennifer Benchimol) and I had just bought a new home in Coxsackie, NY, had our first child (Kasey), and were doing pretty well. I asked my wife what she thought and she said, “…if you can get financing, I will begrudgingly move away from all my family and move to Clinton, CT,"` (never thinking it was even a remote possibility). So, I started to put together a business plan, hired a consultant and started pitching banks. In March of 1998, my dream and my wives nightmare became a reality. At our closing, after money was transferred back and forth to everyone involved, we left the lawyers office with a check for about $60.00 and a marina. As we joke about it now, “…are they crazy, we are just kids…” I was 26 and Jen was 28 (cradle robber).
Then we started the hard part of trying to run a business on a shoe string budget. In addition, we added a boat dealership. We signed on with Chris Craft boats that year and have been with them since (even after Chris Craft went bankrupt in 2001). Today, we are the oldest Chris Craft dealer in the world and have been ranked 1, 2, or 3 for every year since we have been involved. Over the years, it has gotten a little easier and we were able to raise 3 kids (Kasey, Abby & Julian) somewhat successfully. We have rebuilt and poured our blood, sweat, and multiple tears into our business. The idea for the "restaurant" came a few years ago when I let one of my kids (Abby) open up an ice cream cart to “test the waters." Abby’s Place was moderately successful and ended up being the first step to pursuing a restaurant. At the same time, we opened up a stand-up paddleboard shop during the initial craze of paddle boarding, called Paddleworks.
At first, we were pursuing a food truck set up until I got the idea to make a food truck out of a boat. I searched high and low for an old lobster boat for this. The actual restaurant is considered a mobile food “truck” and follows laws and guidelines of the ever popular food truck craze. The only difference is we built our food truck into a 42’ Lobster Boat. We found the boat on Craig’s List and It was owned and used by the Sound School in New Haven as a research vessel and decommissioned years ago. The project of getting the boat from New Haven all the way to transforming the boat took about a year with the assistance of one of my good friends who is a contractor and did most of the work (JMT Construction-Gary Litevich). Basically, it is a 1972 Bruno & Stillman Commercial lobster boat. The folks at the sound school actually “pushed” it up here with 2 inflatables with 9.9 HP outboards on Labor Day 2014. They were using the tide to assist but when the tide changed they started losing ground at Falkner’s island ,so we went out and towed them in, coincidently with a Chris Craft. The boat is 100% mobile and can be moved and operated anywhere. It has a full commercial kitchen and is quite roomy.
The setting for eating is a transformed waterside building that was originally a ships store moved to the point 30 years ago. The building was completely destroyed by hurricane sandy and we have been rebuilding ever since. With new FEMA regulations, we had to raise the building which now gives it the best waterfront view that I’ve seen anywhere in CT. There will be inside and outside deck seating for about 100 as well as waterside seating on the ground level for overflow. We will be a classic New England fry house with kids and land lover items as well. Specials and events are planned for the near future. We will have parking, docking (with reservations) and offer local delivery service as well as take out. Still working out logistics of a liquor license so for now, we are BYOB.
The name on the back of the boat is SOUNDER and we left it on as a tribute to the Sound School in New Haven. The name Shanks, although popular at many golf courses and other establishments in the country, was the name of an old “dive” bar (Shanks Café) that operated out of Harborside Marina’s Property from the 70’s to mid 80’s before it dissolved.
Shanks Waterfront Dining will be managed, for the 8TH consecutive summer, by Angela Hutchinson, who is an experienced restaurant and food service professional from Clinton.
John and Jen Benchimol and manager, Angela Hutchinson, getting ready for the 2017 season opening