DERRY — It’s a sign of spring when a line forms at this local landmark.
Clam Haven celebrated its opening day March 17 with a ribbon-cutting, blessing of the building, and plenty of fried fish favorites to go around.
The eatery has been a local favorite for more than 60 years, serving up seafood, ice cream, burgers and hot dogs.
Under the ownership of Lisa DeSisto, who also owns several Rig A' Tony's Italian takeout businesses in the area, the seafood staple drew a big crowd to celebrate the opening day and to honor DeSisto and her new business venture.
DeSisto took over the business from Rick Metts, who operated Clam Haven for more than three decades.
Metts was a community fixture not only behind the deep fryers, but also on town boards. However, he decided it was time to retire.
DeSisto paid tribute to Metts and his family, for all their support as she takes over the reins of the business.
"I thank Rick Metts for the opportunity to keep the heart and soul of Clam Haven up and running," DeSisto said.
She said when she opened Clam Haven for the first time a year ago, it was a leap of faith. She said she knew it was something that would help propel her ahead with a dream to continue doing what she loves.
DeSisto added that although COVID-19 brought down many businesses, she was able to continue on with a successful take-out and catering business through her Rig A' Tony's locations.
Clam Haven is an extension of DeSisto's many decades of hard work, beginning with the flagship Rig A' Tony's on West Broadway in Derry, then expanding to a market space on South Avenue. She is currently working to open a new Windham space later this year.
Derry Planning Director George Sioras noted that local dining establishments have suffered over the past year due to the pandemic, but later this year restaurants will be able to offer outdoor dining opportunities for customers, something Sioras called very successful for business owners last year.
Clam Haven offers outdoor areas for eating, including several tables, and an enclosed area with tables inside.
Sioras was happy to see a local business doing well during these challenging times.
"It's a win-win," he said.
Clam Haven has served generations of families over the years. Now, those who remember stopping by for a plate of fried clams and onion rings are sharing their love of the spot with their own children and grandchildren.
April Starin, who grew up in Derry and now lives in Manchester, said she wouldn't miss stopping by Clam Haven when it opens for the season.
"Growing up in Derry, I always knew that the nicer weather was right around the corner when Clam Haven would open for the season," said Starin, who used to work there.
For DeSisto, opening day was full of friends, family and many supporters.
She presented her son Anthony with the gift of a telescope, to symbolize family ties and future hopes.
"To carry on the love and traditions your Mom has taught you," she told her son. "A telescope for the hope to see what the future can bring."
Clam Haven is located at 94 Rockingham Road and opens daily at 11 a.m.