Oh, when I look back now
That summer seemed to last forever
And if I had the choice
Yeah, I’d always wanna be there
Those were the best days of my life
Life is filled with changes, hellos and good-byes. Good-byes being the hardest.
Last fall my sister and I felt it was time to sell our beloved family home. It was one of the hardest decisions we had to make. The laughter and all the cherished memories held dear within in these walls were now just that—cherished memories. Our parents had both passed away, the neighbors we grew up with were no longer there, the neighborhood had changed.
You know when it is time to let go. Just a couple of weeks ago I said to a longtime summer friend, “When The Clam Shack ever closes, that will be the end of an era in Falmouth.”
On August 8 this message appeared on The Clam Shack’s Facebook page. A heartfelt message from Jim Limberakis.
“Tonight I come to you with a somber post. We have made the decision that this will be our last season in business. This was not an easy decision. Thank you to our customers. Thank you to the countless young people who worked along the way over many years. You know who you are and that you were an integral part of making us one of the best Clam Shacks in New England. Somewhere in the week leading to Labor Day we will close. Thank you all.”
The comments began pouring in with a common link between them all.
“Saddest news ever”
“You’re a treasure and will miss you greatly”
“I am coming back with a sleeping bag and refusing to leave, good luck trying to get me out”
“Bit by bit my childhood vanishes from Falmouth”
“Clam Shack was an institution in Falmouth, not only providing the best clams on the Cape but providing summer employment for so many generations of young people. Run by one of the best bosses these kids will ever know”—Bruce and Carlene Newell
“It’s been such an amazing mainstay in our lives, thank you for being such an amazing purveyor of all that represents the Cape.”
Lines out the door upon the Memorial Day opening until closing on Labor Day. Selling 185 clam plates a day over the 90 days they are open!
Bud Tietje owned the property at 227 Clinton Avenue. It was around 1961 when Mr. Limberakis and Mr. Tietje were introduced. At the time Mr. Limberakis owned two other restaurants. One was The Salt Box, which was located where the old Hearth ‘n Kettle used to be. As Jim said, “The Salt Box looked just like the shack looks today. It sat in a dirt parking lot. In those days there was nothing but a sand lot. The other one was run by a family friend who had just gotten out of the Air Force, that was where Pie in the Sky is today.”
Jim said, “I believe the first year my dad ran The Clam Shack it was in the old building. Bud and my dad constructed the building you see today, although there are additions that were not presenting in the early renditions. As a teen I hounded my dad to enclose the front, which was done while I was in high school.”
Jim worked for his dad throughout high school and college. In 1984 Jim bought the business from his father upon his retirement; however, Mr. Limberakis did continue to help with daily prep work.
The Shack endured a number of hurricanes, being hit badly by Hurricane Bob in 1991.The grease dumpster was swept by the violent seas in front of The Flying Bridge. Picnic tables floated down Clinton Avenue and were found in numerous neighbors’ yards. Inside, the shack was laden with mud, seaweed and four feet of water. Cleanup started at 5 AM and ended after midnight. Even the front wall had to be sledgehammered in order to replace dock planking that came up from the pounding sea.
One thing that has helped the shack to withstand all the storms through the years was the way Mr. Tietje had some of the seawall constructed; it is shaped like a bow of a boat so waves break when the waves pelt.
I am humbled for the opportunity to write this homage to The Clam Shack. For me, personally, it represents more than 40 years of love, friendship and a deep respect for the Limberakis family. Mr. Limberakis sadly passed away in September 2017 at the age of 100. Good genetics, love of golf and great clams, I am sure, helped in reaching 100.
So many wonderful memories, starting as kids. How the years fly by, as we once again approach the ending of another summer; and this year, with the closing of the Shack, the ending of an era.
All those walks down Clinton Avenue opening the screen door, ordering the best seafood on the Cape. Sitting on the deck watching all the activity in the harbor while enjoying mouth-watering strips.
Jim, you and your family are loved in this town; your dad started a legacy, a legacy which has endured generations.The Shack has touched all our lives in very personal ways, a cherished dear friend, The Clam Shack.
Jim states, “The best part of working here all these years has been working with so many kids that have passed through. Now I have kids of kids who worked here years ago. I love listening to what’s going on in their lives. We work together, yet, it’s more like a family. They have all touched my heart and I will miss them form graduations to weddings. Having my sister and her family work here over the years, to my daughter and to my son, Matt, who works right along beside me. And to all the customers—many have become friends. A heartfelt thank you for your support.”
“My wife, Cindy, said to me one night as we discussed the pros and cons, ‘I have been a Clam Shack widow for almost 40 years and it’s time for you to come home.’ ”