New ownership, same faces: Rudy's to reopen next week in Cape Elizabeth

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Customers who have gone without fried clams, seafood chowder, or a lobster omelet from Rudy’s on the Cape will not have to wait much longer to satisfy their desires.

The restaurant is expected to reopen early next week, with most of the same staff and a new owner.

Rudy’s, at 517 Ocean House Road, changed hands in July and is now owned by developer Paul J. Woods Jr., a longtime town resident who also has plans pending with the town to expand the business.

The restaurant was previously owned by Mary Page, who leased it to Chuck Barnes for the past three years. Woods purchased the restaurant after the lease expired.

“It has taken longer than expected, but we are eager to reopen,” Woods said Wednesday. “We want to keep the continuity and not change a lot of the details.”

He said 90 percent of the decisions about the restaurant have been driven by the staff. “Collectively, they are an essential part of the soul of Rudy’s,” Woods said.

Restaurant manager Catie Fairbanks-Cliffe said she can’t wait for the business to reopen.

“The employees have been here every day cleaning, putting the menus together and helping out,” she said. “And as much as the employees feel like family, the regulars are (family), too.”

She said every day since the restaurant closed on Oct. 1 for cleaning, residents have been stopping by to check in and ask questions. People want to know what’s happening, what will be different and what will be the same, she said.

“Even though everything will be the same when we open, we are starting from scratch,” she said.

In addition to the deep cleaning, Rudy’s “face lift” has involved building shelves, painting the walls and trim, and defrosting the coolers, walk-in refrigerator and freezer. There is new track lighting, but the interior and menu will remain the same, she said.

One significant change is Aaron Libby, the new chef.

Fairbanks-Cliffe said Libby is from Cape Elizabeth, has worked at Gritty McDuff’s in Portland and will be a great addition. She said he is familiar with the type of food Rudy’s is known for and has already joined the staff for cleaning duties.

Another employee, Elaine Harris-Lowell, said even though she has worked at Rudy’s for a short time, she feels like she is a part of a close-knit group of people.

“It’s exciting to see the enthusiasm,” she said. “It’s important for everyone to have a part in this.”

And Fairbanks-Cliffe agreed that the employees — who she noted remained through the transition — have taken ownership of the restaurant and exhibit a great deal of pride.

Darleen Griffin has worked at Rudy’s for six years, and said the restaurant is her home away from home. She said it feels comfortable and welcoming, not only for the employees, but for customers.

“This is a place where you can find locals and tourists, lobstermen, lawyers and doctors sitting and talking,” she said.

And even though there is a change in ownership, Griffin said she appreciates that Woods isn’t trying to come into an established restaurant and make a lot of changes.

“He understands that the restaurant went on before us and will continue on after we are gone, and that it is the town’s,” she said. “Mr. Woods is looking to keep Rudy’s like it is, keep it comfy.”

She said she likes that the employees have been invited to offer their opinions and feedback about the restaurant. In turn, she said it makes her feel more “a part of it.”

“I feel listened to, heard and my ideas are put into effect,” she said. “And as much as it is our place, it is the customers’ place, too.”

Fairbanks-Cliffe said food is expected to arrive this weekend, and the staff will be working to prepare for the reopening early next week.

“The coffee pot will be on all weekend,” she said, “and we look forward to seeing our regulars again.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson

Sidebar Elements

Elaine Harris-Lowell, manager Catie Fairbanks-Cliffe and Darleen Griffin take a break Wednesday from sanding shelves, ordering food and cleaning the floors at Rudy’s on the Cape in Cape Elizabeth. The restaurant at 517 Ocean House Road has been closed since Oct. 1 and is expected to reopen early next week under new ownership.

Rudy’s on the Cape