NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — Tradition is the anchor that holds Jim’s Dock firm in the old fishing village of Narragansett where, this month, the small and cozy restaurant on the Point Judith waterfront celebrates 50 years of staying in business.
At nearly a half century, Jim’s Dock is still going strong long after its founders have died. There’s reason to celebrate this occasion, said Lona Hoffman, a third-generation co-owner.
“There’s a lot of tradition around here,” she said. “We have people who were kids coming here and now bring their own kids. We have our own fourth generation of family starting to work here.”
It’s not surprising. Jerusalem and Jim’s Dock are unique places, savoring time and tradition.
Jerusalem is located across the harbor from Galilee. It is named after the Biblical city of Jerusalem and is not attached to any other part of Narragansett by land. Its only land border is with the Matunuck section of South Kingstown.
More than a century ago, according to local lore, both Galilee and Jerusalem in Rhode Island received their biblical names from fishermen who lived in shanties and made a living from the hard labor and dangerous work of trawling the seas off the state’s coast.
Much of that fishing atmosphere existed in 1972 when the late David DeCubellis co-founded Jim’s Dock at 1175 Succotash Road, with his father, Jim, and brother-in-law, Ray. DeCubellis and family bought the original John’s Dock from John Beatrice.
He renamed the business after his father and sold lobsters, fishing supplies and ice, and rented boats.
Soon, it turned into a breakfast stop for fishermen whose boats were moored around the small building he now owned.
The restaurant started in the 1980s and a dinner menu was added in the mid-1980s to lunch and breakfast offerings, said Hoffman. DeCubellis took over full-time in 1992 when he retired from the state police. Hoffman began as general manager in 2000.
David DeCubellis died in 2014, leaving a hole in the heart of daughter Lona who, among her brother and sister, spent the most time with her father at the restaurant and dock, she said.
“It was hard after my dad passed. I came here, but it was very difficult,” said Hoffman, who is 50 and was born the year the business started. “I grew up here. We’d pack our bags and come down here for the summer every year. My sister and I would work from early morning until about 11 a.m. and then spend the rest of the day out on the water. This is really the only thing I knew in the summer.”
Her father was a hard worker, Hoffman said, always doing something and always kept busy. She credits that attitude with helping the enterprise thrive over the years and anchor itself as a tradition with many local and seasonal residents along with the fishermen still trawling the waters offshore.
A chip off the old block, she sheepishly said that she’s pretty much the same way but has started to ease up a tiny bit.
“For the first time, I went to the beach the other day,” said Hoffman, who has been general manager of the location since the year 2000. “I mean it was the first time in 20 years. I’ve just always been busy here.”
Over the years there have been some changes, of course, in the business, but none that stick out in her mind as significant, she said. They just came with time.
Recently, though, a stressed local economy that is also producing a shortage of help for restaurants forced her to curtail operations to five days a week. It had always been open seven days and closed for the winter when business slowed down.
Another recent change has been with the attitudes of some customers, who she called “entitled and rude.”
“If they don’t get what they want some will yell,” Hoffman said. “You don’t yell at 14- and 15-year-old staff. They shouldn’t have to put up with that behavior.”
The many fans of Jim’s Dock overshadow any visitors bringing a negative vibe to the atmosphere, however.
Kate Leahy Girard wrote on a Facebook post commemorating the restaurant’s Golden Anniversary. , “Congratulations! Many delicious breakfasts there in the ’80s, early ‘90’s with my family.”
In another note of thanks, Beverly O’Malley wrote, “Congratulations!! We love the dock...three generations of our family have enjoyed it over the years.”
Lisa Tewksbury added, “Congratulations! We’ve been going for about 35 years! Thank you!”
Susan Major Martin put it simply.
“I love Jim’s Dock,” she said.
“We just have these traditions and generations of people who come back, including the staff who leave and come back to work here,” Hoffman said. “They like it and they want to stay a little longer.”
It’s the same for her, too.
“I’m very proud of what my grandfather and my dad did and what they’ve left to us,” she said. “I think I’d be lost without it. This, to me, keeps my grandfather and father alive.”