Skippers re-opening

// Restaurant refreshes Pacific Avenue business district

The Pacific Avenue Business District is one more step on its way to becoming the vibrant commercial area it aspires to be.

With the re-opening of the Skippers Seafood and Chowder restaurant on the corner of South 48th Street and Pacific Avenue, there is one less vacant storefront attracting unwanted behavior and blight.

Instead, there is a "bright shiny light" attracting customers and commerce to the neighborhood, according to Gia Casto, secretary for the business district.

"Skippers has just revitalized that corner," she said.

In 2007, Skippers Inc. went under, closing up storefronts throughout the area.

Many stores, like the Pacific Avenue location, were left vacant for two-and-a-half years during bankruptcy proceedings and change of corporate ownership.

About six months ago, retired Navy officer Michael Murdoch and his wife Darna bought the Pacific location, as well as a Skippers in South Hill and the Westgate location in Tacoma.

The South Hill store opened in December 2008 and the Pacific Avenue store opened on Sept. 3. Westgate Skippers will be open for business in 2010.

"Any time you have a shuttered storefront, you are inviting crime and blight," Casto said. "Everyone was throwing rubbish in that parking lot.

"The impact on our neighborhood is going to be one more step in bringing that neighborhood back where it needs to be."

The Murdochs, who work side by side with their employees in the South Hill and Pacific Avenue stores, are enthusiastic about their new entrepreneurial endeavor and about reviving the Skippers name, which has been a Northwest seafood staple since 1969.

"We're starting at the bottom again by re-opening a name that was popular," Michael Murdoch said. "We're giving Skippers another shot at the public."

Skippers Seafood and Chowder still offers the same classic menu and ingredients, from fish and chips and coleslaw to creamy clam chowder, shrimp, chicken strips and hush puppies.

The couple has completely turned around the atmosphere at the Pacific Skippers as well. What was once considered "dingy and uninviting" at the previous owner's store is now bright, friendly and welcoming. Sea-faring decorations adorn the bright blue walls, and a flat-screen television, jukebox and arcade games invite customers to sit-in for a meal and enjoy the surroundings.

"It's rewarding to give something back to the community that was lost," Michael Murdoch said. "You can sell fish anywhere, but if you don't have good customer service, and a good, clean feeling when you go in, people won't want to come back."

And the location, which for two years only attracted illegal dumping, graffiti and squatters now attracts a high volume of dine-in and take-out customers. At 3 p.m. on a Monday, the restaurant was bustling with activity.

"Skippers is a great partnership for our neighborhood," Casto said.

"I see it growing, and I see it inspiring some of our other businesses. It's like a snowball running downhill. When something is busy and it looks like we're growing, something else does.

"It's just one more step... toward making us a destination for people, not just a road to get you to where you're going."

Skippers Seafood and Chowder is located at 4701 Pacific Ave. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. on Sunday. Call (253) 301-3654 for more info.


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