By Josh LaBella
Chris Walsh has successfully owned and managed Duffy’s Tavern for nearly two decades. He said he using a no shenanigans philosophy, fresh food and cleanliness to keep the costumers coming back.
The business plan has clearly worked as last year Walsh opened up another restaurant, Prospect Beach House, last October.
Walsh said he started helping his father, John, himself a longtime restaurateur, with the Duffy’s when he got out of college. By the early 2000s, Walsh took over the business and has been using his father’s “formula” as a guide for both Duffy’s Tavern and Prospect Beach House.
The business owner said he did not always know he wanted to work in the restaurant business but he knew it was in his blood.
“Back then, we were going through a little bit of a recession,” said Walsh. “I wanted to help my dad out as much as I could. So, I went right from school into the business to try and take a little pressure off of him. I ended up staying with it because I did enjoy it. I’ve been there ever since.”
Walsh said his dad opened up Duffy’s in 1983 and handed the business over to him when he retired in late 2002. He said there is never a dull moment in the restaurant business.
“It’s always incredibly challenging,” said Walsh. “Probably too challenging. But your feet never go to sleep. There’s always something to do. There’s always something to recreate. You always want to be evolving in the restaurant business. You don’t want to get stagnant.”
According to Walsh, he is always thinking about the “next move” even when his businesses are doing well. He said the work is fulfilling and that he loves when customers tell him they enjoyed the experience.
“Believe me, there’ve been times where I wished I worked a 9 to 5 job,” said Walsh. “But something always pulls me back and keeps me interested.”
Regarding Duffy’s, Walsh said his father was the trailblazer but he tries to put his own spin on it. He said the business has attracted loyal customers in its 36 years of operation.
“Back when he [his father] started it was a little bit crazier,” said Walsh. “There were a lot more shenanigans and him, being an ex-cop, ruled it with an iron fist and always said, ‘If you mess up here, you’re out. That’s it.’”
He said keeping that tight grasp on the business has helped keep a lot of the “riff raff” out and the good customers coming in.
Walsh said revitalizing an old building and bringing something to his home district of West Shore was his motivation for opening Prospect Beach House. He said when he bought the location, he came in knowing exactly what he wanted to do.
“It kind of called to me in a way,” said Walsh. “I could do this, clean up that corner, and, hopefully, do West Haven proud.”
According to Walsh, the past year with Prospect Beach House has been challenging but has gone well. He said if he did not have the experience it might have been harder.
“Because I have the experience, I was able to make the adjustments I needed to early on,” said Walsh. “The numbers are right and everything looks good.”
Walsh said people ask him how he manages to run both businesses and he always tells them it is because he has great help.
“It’s a team effort,” said Walsh. “Without my people it would be impossible to do what I do.”