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Skippers has a new owner and growth plan

The onetime cult favorite has shrunk to five full-fledged restaurants and 128 stations in c-stores and supermarkets. The buyer, the distribution company Harbor Wholesale, intends to grow the brand.
Photograph: Shutterstock

The remnants of the Skippers Seafood & Chowder fast-food chain, a onetime favorite of the Pacific Northwest, have been acquired by the regional foodservice and c-store distributor Harbor Wholesale from Starway Restaurants LLC.

The price and other terms of the deal were not revealed.

Harbor President Richard Jensen said his company intends to “further develop the concept in the Northwest and beyond. We see a lot of opportunity to build on the signature fish & chips and clam chowder that Skippers is known for.”

Skippers has changed considerably since filing for bankruptcy in December 2006. At the time, the chain consisted of nearly 60 restaurants. Only five full-fledged units remain in operation, all franchised.

But the brand found new life as a food station inside c-stores and supermarkets. About 128 of those scaled-down operations are currently in operation.

Skippers-brand products, including its chowder, are also sold on supermarket shelves.

The transaction marks the latest twist for Skippers, which was founded in 1969 by Herb Rosen. It quickly became known for its chowder, competing head-to-head with the likes of Ivar’s. Other specialties included a variety of fried seafoods.

The brand was sold to NPC International, a major Pizza Hut franchisee, in 1986. It would later become a major franchisee of Wendy’s as well. NPC was liquidated last year, with most of the company acquired by the restaurant industry’s biggest franchisee across all brands, Greg Flynn.

Because much of its menu consisted of fried foods, Skippers lost momentum as Americans became more health conscious. It passed through a variety of owners, each looking to revive the concept, until it filed for bankruptcy. The company was liquidated in 2007.

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