(April 12, 2013) Investors thought Frank Hanna Sr. was crazy for wanting to build a restaurant in Fenwick Island, Del., so far north of Ocean City in the early 1980s, and many banks turn him down for financing.
“He had a vision of building a seafood house on the water,” said Hanna’s son, Wes. “My dad saw potential in the location.”
Finally, he received the necessary loan and construction of Harpoon Hanna’s began in September 1982. Wes was born in October.
The restaurant, which sits on six acres and is approximately 12,000 square feet including its decks, opened for business on April 10, 1983.
More than 500 dinners were served the first night, which Hanna and his staff thought would never happen again. Today, Harpoon Hanna’s, which can seat 750 diners at one time, serves 1,800 to 2,000 dinners during summer evenings.
“It’s incredible to see how much we’ve grown,” Wes Hanna said.
There have been a number of renovations over the years. The boater bar was replaced with a tiki bar in 1996. The deck area received a permanent roof and new flooring. The front of the restaurant was given a facelift last year and new windows were installed. The bar also has a new granite top and draft system. Additional renovations are planned, while keeping the rustic look, Hanna said.
Despite some changes, Harpoon Hanna’s has remained a family restaurant. Hanna would come to the restaurant with his father as a young boy and by age 12 he was selling T-shirts there. He worked his way up to dishwasher, busboy and server. He was a manager by age 18.
He graduated from the University of Delaware in 2004, where he studied restaurant management.
Hanna now runs both Harpoon Hanna’s and Brew River, the family’s restaurant in Salisbury, which opened in 2002. His sister, Leigh, is the assistant general manager at Brew River. Their father is still involved and will “pop his head in from time to time to see what’s going on,” Hanna said.
The goal is to remain an affordable, casual restaurant, while offering the highest quality food and beverages available. Customers have grown to love the restaurant’s “famous” homemade coconut and blueberry muffins and breads as well as all-you-can-eat crab legs, fresh fish items and baby back ribs, among others.
Hanna said he feels a sense of pride when he sees how much customers enjoy their experience at the restaurant.
Some customers dined at the restaurant when they were children and now they take their families there, he said.
The restaurant has been so successful, Hanna said, because of consistency, great food and service as well as its loyal customers and hard-working staff.
Several employees, specifically kitchen staff, have worked for the family for a number of years, as well as general manager James “Luke” Lucas. He has been with the business for 20 years.
“We appreciate how hard everyone works. We couldn’t do it without the staff and management,” Hanna said. “With the [poor] economy, there’s something to be said for 30 years … We plan to be here another 30 years.”
Harpoon Hanna’s will celebrate its 30th anniversary today, Friday. The festivities will begin at 2 p.m. Dave Hawkins will perform from 3-7 p.m. DJ Batman will take over at 7 p.m. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Complimentary food, happy hour specials will be available.
Hanna said he wants to continue the restaurant’s legacy and make it better and better.