Skipper's Seafood 'n Chowder House restaurants may have floundered, but they're far from being sunk. Despite the shutdown of many locations...

Share story

Skipper’s Seafood ‘n Chowder House restaurants may have floundered, but they’re far from being sunk.

Despite the shutdown of many locations, about 21 of the seafood restaurants in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah are open under new ownership.

The next generation of owners hopes to keep the chain going and growing despite its past struggles.

Skipper’s, based in Edmonds, filed for bankruptcy protection in December after owing creditors $6.7 million, about $2 million of which was to the IRS.

The company unknowingly failed to pay federal employment taxes after outsourcing accounting work to another firm, according to court records.

Skipper’s dissolved as a company in June. Its former owners will generally not be involved with the remaining restaurants, whose sale did not garner enough funds to clear the company’s debt, according to the company’s bankruptcy attorney, James Day.

Most of the new owners are operating under a limited license that allows them to use the Skipper’s name and trademark, which were sold to one of the buyers during the bankruptcy proceedings.

Jae Hong, who bought six of the 11 Skipper’s open in Washington state, is a veteran in the restaurant business. He also owns 25 Herfy’s Burger restaurants in the Puget Sound area.

Hong said he first considered buying all the Skipper’s restaurants but decided the investment was too risky.

Hong dreams about expanding Skipper’s. He wants to open Skipper’s restaurants across the country and someday open joint Skipper’s and Herfy’s locations.

“Like KFC and Taco Bell,” Hong said.

Meanwhile, Ed and Maureen Dahlgren, who bought the Skipper’s in Wenatchee, have more modest aspirations for a restaurant they think is special to their area.

“There isn’t anything else even similar, and we wanted to keep it going,” said Maureen.

Ed had worked as a manager at the Wenatchee restaurant for 20 years before becoming its owner.

The Dahlgrens decided to keep the same products and retained most employees, which Maureen hopes will keep their loyal customers coming back.

“That’s the consistency that everyone is banking on,” she said.

The Wenatchee store was closed for eight days during bankruptcy proceedings in July.

Eric Coody, manager of the downtown Puyallup restaurant, said things have improved since owner Johne Bang took over.

“He’s fixing up the place … [and] putting up a lot of decorations,” Coody said. “It looks like a jungle … lots of flowers and plants.”

Coody has been the manager of the downtown Puyallup restaurant for more than two years and worked for Skipper’s for about 13 years.

“I’m thankful that he did buy this place,” Coody said.

Bang said he’d paid about $175,000 for the downtown Puyallup restaurant.

According to Coody, the first few weeks with the new owner were slow, but business picked up once advertising let people know that their restaurant hadn’t closed.

The new owner of Skipper’s restaurants in Renton, Auburn and Lacey has remodeled bathrooms and improved landscaping outside the restaurant, said Randy Marsh, a manager at the Renton restaurant.

“I know it’s simple things, but he’s putting money and effort into the buildings again,” said Marsh.

Within a couple of months, Marsh said they hope to update the old registers to “modern touch-screen technology.”

Hong said he, too, has made changes since taking over in July, including raising wages, repainting and changing light fixtures in restaurants.

He’d also like to bring more fresh seafood to the Skipper’s restaurants he owns.

The Dahlgrens plan to host more special events like birthday parties and work with local PTAs to help them fund-raise. In the past they’ve had nights when teachers don aprons and take orders, with a percentage of the sales going to the PTA.

Hong said he will cooperate with other owners, even if they aren’t formally connected. He said he had met with other owners and planned to meet again regularly.

“We’re going to stick together,” he said.

While Skipper’s ownership may be scattered now, one employee pointed out the benefits of such an arrangement.

Coody said in the past, area managers would make monthly visits to check up on restaurants. But not having a large company own the restaurant has changed that.

“[The owner’s] here every day,” said Coody.

“It’s nice if we ever run out of anything or need anything, you just say it.”

Bibeka Shrestha: 206-515-5632 or