At age 71, the announced sale of a restaurant might signal retirement for many, but slowing down is not on Fred Terry’s agenda.
After 16 years owning the Lobster Roll Northside in Baiting Hollow, and more than 50 years in the restaurant business, Terry is simply shifting his focus a bit.
“Frankly the whole full service restaurant idea was becoming a bit cumbersome, unless you have a big extended family,” Terry said. “Now I have a big extended family, but they all have different careers.”
So he’ll continue to be a partner in his family’s Lobster Roll restaurant in Amagansett and they plan on creating a few Lobster Roll mobile units. For that reason, he is not selling the brand. So what is for sale?
“It’s on the market for the entire property, the restaurant, the tap room and retail complex. It’s about two acres of land,” said Hal Zwick, director of commercial real estate at Town and Country in East Hampton.
The asking price is $2.95 million.
This is not the first time Terry has looked to sell the property. A non-binding auction was previously held in 2011, but it was not sold. Terry, a direct descendent of Southold Town settlers, began his career in the restaurant business as a grill cook in Montauk. He bought the clam bar that would become the original Lobster Roll in 1965.
The success of the South Fork restaurant led him to buy and renovate an old farmhouse on Sound Avenue in 1999, turning it into the Lobster Roll Northside. The establishment sits across the street from the original Terry Family Farm.
While Terry’s ex-wife and two youngest sons now manage the Lobster Roll in Amagansett, he is still a principal in that operation.
“We’ve had a lot of interest in moving that forward,” he said. “We own all the trademarks for the word; Lobster roll, lobster salad roll and so on, even though you do see others.”
However, Terry’s trademark ownership does not extend to him actually having invented the lobster roll, as some believe.
“According to the American Dictionary of Food and Drink, I am the one who invented the lobster salad roll,” Terry said, chuckling to himself. “Now I don’t make that claim. What happened is we bought this little clam bar and started serving lobster as a salad. The New England tradition was always lobster served with hot butter. For the Long Island/Connecticut version, they call it a lobster salad roll. So I didn’t invent it, we moved it greatly forward.”
The Amagansett eatery is now a must-stop for visitors on their way to and from Montauk, and it became even more popular last year thanks to a cable television drama.
“The Showtime series ‘The Affair’ has used the Lobster Roll as its center,” Terry said. “Abercrombie & Fitch just shot their whole catalogue there last Tuesday. They also just filmed the the second season of ‘The Affair.’ We have people flying in just to walk in the building.”
As the celebrity of the Lobster Roll continues, so too is Terry.
“I’m definitely moving on to other things,” he said. “We have Gingerbread University, which we’re putting satellite units up for.”
Gingerbread University is a decorating and party center, also created by Terry, where children come to decorate gingerbread cookies. It’s a popular party and activity center that Terry intends to hold onto. Along with Gingerbread University, Terry has also written a series of children’s books about gingerbread people.
“I’ve just been asked to do a fourth book and then script something for Saturday morning television,” he said.
The fact that Gingerbread University remains on the property of Lobster Roll Northside creates some questions about Terry’s final plans for the establishment. He has said the unit that houses that particular business would be included in the sale, but he would like to keep Gingerbread University there if possible. So what does he expect the property to become?
“I think it’ll remain a restaurant,” he said. “The only other conceivable use that would make any sense would be converting it to a small inn. If a buyer takes it, my management structure will stay in the restaurant, if they want to. It’s really more about me moving on to other projects. Only it can’t be called the Lobster Roll, it can’t even be called Lobster, but I’m sure somebody can come up with something else for it.”
TOP PHOTO: Owner Fred Terry is selling Lobster Roll Northside (Credit: Monique Singh-Roy)