How do you thank your customers for your most successful season ever? Easy, you throw a party and invite them all.
That’s what Jim Hayward, the owner of Commander Cody’s Fish Shoppe on Shelter Island is doing Sunday.
“Usually at the end of the season we have a celebration, sort of a customer appreciation thing,” explained Mr. Hayward, a.k.a. the Commander. “But this year is our 25th anniversary, too, so we decided to do everything all at once. It’s a Customer Appreciation/25th Anniversary Party.”
The Commander has been a fixture on Shelter Island for 60 years. Originally from South Carolina, he came to Shelter Island in the 1950s and worked at several jobs, including farming and as a driver, before starting the restaurant and fish market in 1990. When he began fishing on Shelter Island, local baymen called him “Commander.” He added “Cody” after his beloved black lab, when the dog died.
The Commander, who turned 80 this year, still prides himself on being able to go out several times a week to fish and pull his traps. Some of the seafood that he still catches himself include crabs, porgies, blackfish and sea bass. But these days his daughter Amanda, a graduate of Shelter Island High School and the Culinary Institute of America, does most of the cooking at the restaurant.
Looking back on 25 years in the seafood business, the Commander jokingly said he may have done things differently.
“If I knew then what I know now I probably would have started a different business,” he said. “They say the fish business can be a fishy business, but I love it because it is a challenge and only the strong survive. Everybody should do the thing they love if they can, but the fishing business is a hard business to be in.”
Thanking his customers is also an important aspect of the business to the Commander. “We wanted to bring the people back and show them that we appreciate them for coming over, because without them there wouldn’t be any business.”
Commander Cody’s Customer Appreciation 25th Anniversary celebration will take place on Sunday October 18 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. There will be a live band, beer from Greenport Harbor Brewery and all the food that fans of Commander Cody’s have come to love; including his Southern barbequed ribs, fried chicken and smoked fish.
“I just want people to come and have a good time, that’s all. I like to give back, there’s only one thing that takes in and don’t give back and that’s the graveyard,” he said laughing.
Commander Cody’s is located at 41 Smith Street on Shelter Island. For more information please call 631-749-1851.