Shuckers Seafood & Pasta is changing hands and faces, but will keep a small piece of its former self.
The landmark Swanton restaurant was purchased from its retiring owners in November by Jamie Wietrzykowski, owner of the Mail Pouch Saloon in Haskins, Ohio. Shuckers closed Monday, and over the next few months will undergo a major upgrade patterned after the saloon motif. Gone will be the iconic rooftop boat and the aging interior, as well as all but the most popular seafood menu items.
But Wietrzykowski believes the end result will please even the staunchest of Shuckers’ patrons.
“It’s going to get a full-throttle facelift. Change can be a good thing,” he said.
While the restaurant’s exterior look – sans the boat – will remain essentially the same, the inside will be gutted to make room for a themed, uptown look. The centerpiece will be a massive horseshoe-shaped bar featuring over 30 stools, 30 draft domestic and craft beers, a backlit and underlit bottle display of extensive liquors, USB charging stations located between each stool for cell phones, and purse hangers.
A special feature will be a clear resin bar top covering a plethora of photos and articles depicting Swanton’s history.
There will also be new booths and tables and 30 large screen televisions. An upgraded outdoor patio will feature a clear bar top holding 18,000 pennies arranged to offer hidden words, and swings replacing stools.
“People love it. Adults will fight over the seats,” Wietrzykowski said.
Music will regularly stream through the restaurant until the weekend, when live bands will play all genres, from rock to western to blues.
When the restaurant reopens on a date in April “they’ll have to give us a chance,” he said of Shuckers’ loyal patrons. “They will see that the remodel will be done with love and care for Swanton. Hopefully, they’ll embrace that, and hopefully they’ll adapt to the new and improved restaurant.”
But while he plans to offer a big-city experience in a small-town setting, don’t get the idea the restaurant will be a hangout for the college crowd, Wietrzykowski said. It’s strictly family-friendly oriented, a place to go after an outing or a ball game, he said.
“I don’t want to be a hipster bar, I don’t want to be the party spot,” he said. “We’re not a two o’ clock in the morning bar/restaurant. It will be a place where people can come in and listen to music.”
To emphasize the family atmosphere, he’ll feature a magician once a week to entertain both adults and children.
The menu will be a hybrid of the former Shuckers and his current Mail Pouch Saloon. Pasta is out, but the most popular items on the seafood menu, including the clam chowder, will remain. Wietrzykowski will also serve burgers including vegetarian and chicken, steaks, wraps, ribs, and wings.
“We’re going to have everything from a fried bologna sandwich up to an 18-ounce ribeye,” he said.
And the staff will stay intact. “(That’s) not one thing changing at all,” Wietrzykowski said.
In fact, the new and improved restaurant will retain just enough of its Swanton legacy that Wietrzykowski has yet to decide whether to keep the name or brand it another Mail Pouch Saloon.
Mary Keifer, Shuckers general manager and an employee almost since the restaurant opened 25 years ago, is excited about the coming renovation.
“The change is good, just to keep up with the times. We’ve come to a digital world, and he’s going to bring us into that,” she said of Wietrzykowski.
“He’s got a good thing in Haskins, and marrying the two should work out great. I hope that all the customers we’ve had over the years give us a chance when we open.”
And while it’s hard for her to see the former Shuckers go, “change can be good,” Keifer said.
The new incarnation will be open Sunday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight. Shuckers gift certificates will be honored for up to 18 months after the opening.
Wietrzykowski will hold a garage sale Jan. 14 and 15, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., to sell Shuckers items not used in the renovation. Tables, booths, chairs, kitchen utensils, dinnerware, and a longtime interior decoration – a four-foot tarpon – will be available. Certain items will be held for a closed bid auction, including the boat from the roof.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.