The Seafood Shanty was a popular restaurant in Berks County for 23 years. It was technically a chain, with other locations being around the greater Philadelphia area and into New Jersey. The first location in Berks was opened in Mount Penn on Perkiomen Avenue. The second location was opened on Penn Avenue in West Lawn. Both were opened in the early 1970s.
The West Lawn location had previously been the White Whale, another seafood establishment. Seafood Shanty had a habit of buying up struggling local seafood joints and turning them around under the Seafood Shanty branding and management.
The restaurant was highly successful until the 1990s. The owner filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September of 1990.
They remained opened and operating through the first bankruptcy. In 1993, they filed bankruptcy again, this time Chapter 7.
The West Lawn Seafood Shanty closed sometime in 1995. The original location in Mount Penn continued on for a few more years. The last classified ad looking for potential employees ran in December of 1998. I’m not sure if there was a change of ownership or how it continued to operate, because the original owner of the chain lost possession of the restaurant after the Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The original owner, Joseph Gentile, actually ended up in some legal trouble in 1995 due to not paying almost $700,000 in state taxes. If you know who owned it or what its status was between ’93 and ’98 feel free to let us know in the comments.
The Seafood Shanty had a brief revival in 2012 when a local man bought the name and rights to the restaurant and opened in Broadcasting Square Shopping Center. Over $80k worth of gift cards were sold before the grand opening of the restaurant. The TripAdvisor page is filled with negative reviews and the new owner filed for bankruptcy only a year after the hyped opening. It quietly closed shortly after with just a note on the door informing the customers it was no longer in business. That building is now occupied by another seafood restaurant called Coastal Grille.
The West Lawn Seafood Shanty building is now occupied by the New York Bagelry, which has been there since the Seafood Shanty closed its doors in 1995.
The Perkiomen Ave Seafood Shanty still stands as well, but is now an establishment called the Breakfast Hut.
They had an “On the Waterfront” parody as a commercial. The Marlon Brando character says, “I could have had clams; they would have been tender!”
I am the copywriter and actor who played Marlon Brando in that “On The Waterfront” parody.
The commercial recreated the cab scene from the Oscar-winning film and won two Clio awards,
one for the spot itself and one for my acting performance. My ad agency handled the Seafood Shanty account for many years.
This building was originally built for Topp’s Hamburgers in the 1960’s. I think the cost for a hamburger was 19 cents. Their ice cream sundaes were topped with a colorful plastic circus animal to keep. You ate in your car.
The definition of shanty means Shack. Why call was supposed to be a nicer restaurant a shack?
you pose a very interesting question. If I had to guess, it was an attempt to convey the authenticity of the seafood as opposed to a reference of quality of the atmosphere in the restaurant.