‘It’s better to go out on top’: Webster’s Fish Hook to close after 35 years

  • Daniel Webster, center, with son Alex Webster and father Daniel W. Webster, stand in front of the family-owned restaurant, Webster’s Fish Hook in Northampton, Tuesday. The restaurant, which has been open for 35 years, will have its last day of business on April 11. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The dining room at Webster's Fish Hook in Northampton, Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jeff Nutting of Holyoke, a line cook who has worked at Webster's Fish Hook for 23 years, stands in the kitchen, Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2020. The restaurant, which has been open for 35 years, will have its last day of business on April 11. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Daniel Webster, who is the owner of Webster's Fish Hook in Northampton, talks about the closing of the business after 35 years, Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2020. The restaurant will have its last day of business on April 11. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 4/1/2020 1:09:08 PM

NORTHAMPTON — On what will likely be an unusual April 11, during which Webster’s Fish Hook normally would be filled with families enjoying seafood on Good Friday, the restaurant will serve curbside to-go meals instead.

But that date will also be when the family-run establishment will shut down after 35 years in business.

“I’m closing because it’s time to retire from the restaurant business,” said owner Daniel J. Webster, who alongside his father, Daniel W. Webster, began Webster’s from a truck and trailer before converting it to a sit-down restaurant on Damon Road in 1989. “I feel bad that we have to close, but it’s better to go out on top.”

While Webster said closing was going to happen later this year, likely after the summer season that is always busy, the timeline sped up due to customers not being able to dine inside and enjoy its amenities during the pandemic, like the self-serve salad bar.

“The truth is it will cost me too much money to stay open,” Webster said.

When starting the restaurant, Webster said he left his job as a hospital food service manager to make sure the region had a place focused on seafood. “We thought there was a need for fried seafood in the area” Webster said.

It quickly became an institution, particularly on Fridays, with what Webster said were lines out the door and a $2.99 fish-and-chips dinner deal.

The family-style restaurant for many years had what might be considered quaint customs, such as the use of paper plates.

“The motto I’ve always had is ‘simpler is better,’” Webster said. “It’s a good meal with relative value.”

He noted that seafood is not inexpensive and that he is extremely picky about the food the restaurant serves. Still, Webster said he was able to keep the same menu intact over the years.

Haddock, with skin on, is among the most popular platters. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” Webster said.

Lobster salad rolls, both hot and cold, are huge sellers, he said, and fried clams, both strips and whole bellied remain favorites.

Webster’s father continues to be a mainstay in the kitchen, and over the years the entire family has worked at the restaurant, including his wife Janice, his late mother, Ruth, his daughter, Stephanie, and his son Alexander.

But part of what went into the decision to close was that Alexander was not interested in pursuing a restaurant career. “Working with my son has been a highlight for me,” Webster said.

Besides missing working with his family, Webster said he will miss loyal customers and friends.

Among those is Bill Canon of Easthampton, who runs William A. Canon Landscape Architecture.

“We loved the food, we loved the atmosphere and have gotten to know a lot of people,” Canon said.

Canon said his favorite meal has been the yellow-fin tuna, a Friday special, and that his wife Gail, enjoyed the lobster.

Canon has another reason not to forget the restaurant. His son, Colby, met his fiancée at Webster’s and had hoped to have a party there to celebrate their nuptials. “We will have fond memories of the place,” Canon said.

Webster said he would have liked to have given more notice to customers and his employees, which include four full-time and seven part-time workers. He said some of the employees have been there for 25 years.

Despite the proximity to the ongoing roundabout construction near the Coolidge Bridge, Webster said there has been no impact on serving the community.

The family already sold the building last year, after owning the property for 11 years, and Webster said he anticipates the neighboring greenhouse and garden center will be redeveloped.

Webster said he will be pursuing other business opportunities that he will divulge publicly at a later date.

By staying open through Lent, Webster said he hopes the restaurant can offer some level of normalcy, even as people no longer enter the building, and he is giving a full refund on all unused gift cards.

“The sad thing is customers can’t come in to say goodbye,” Webster said.

Those longtime patrons, especially, will be missed, he said.

“The hardest part of closing will not be seeing all those people,” Webster said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2020 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy