In the restaurant business, it’s difficult to find establishments which stand the test of the decades. It’s an industry of ups and downs, of a few success stories and plenty of failed attempts. Coop de Ville, which has been around for 32 years, is an Island success story we’re all proud of, but no one is prouder than owner Petey Berndt, who has been at Coop for 30 years. “Wow, 30 years,” he said. “It seems crazy that I’m still here! Out of everything we’ve lived through in the past three decades, the Coop’s best asset is its family.”
Coop de Ville’s executive chef, Lawrence Jackson, a native of New Orleans, has been the chef for 24 years. Brendan O’Neill, one of his right-hand men, has been at the Coop for 21 years. Among other team members, Jen Ward has been around for 15 years, and Flippi de Souza, Claudia de Silva, and Fabio de Silva have each clocked six years.
As I talk to Petey, he keeps referring to other people who have been an integral part of the establishment. “Garry Meters manned the bar for years, and Kristen McLean and Suzi Radcliffe both have lots of years at the Coop. Nicole Shank, a schoolteacher, has been with me for 20 years!” He also tells me about the old harbormaster from Oak Bluffs, Johnny Boston, and how he has been coming and sitting on the same stool for 25 years, having a cold Foster’s Lager from Australia. There’s an incredible sense of community, a network of characters and personalities that have built Coop up to what it is today.
But moving forward, I’ll let Petey take the reins. Sometimes it’s best to hear stories straight from the man himself. Take it away, Petey:
“It all started when Scotty Page from the Seafood Shanty in Edgartown, along with Hollyday Compton and I, all came down and got summer jobs at the Coop. It was where we went after the beach for oysters and wings.
“When the Coop was for sale, I instantly told my dad, and that’s where it all began. As the harbor grew, we grew, and when Bubba’s Hot Dogs came up, we expanded the raw bar and made the Shuck Shack, which is supplied by local oysters from Sweet Neck Farm and Honeysuckle Oysters. You can also find local littlenecks and shrimp cocktail. It’s challenging, but Oak Bluffs is a great place to do business, and the harbor really has grown since the old days.
“I’ve tried to bring my Baltimore roots into the menu, with Old Bay Seasoning being very important. Baltimore shrimp and Maryland wings are a great component. Add to that our local seafood supplied from the Net Result and Menemsha Fish House, and you’ll notice our focus is always supporting local businesses. Chef Lawrence brings his New Orleans roots to a lot of specials, and between Claudia and Fabio, they make a mean fried lobster tail, which Fodor’s Travel Guide has mentioned in past years. Every Tuesday has become an Island tradition with our Lobster Fest all summer long, a lobster and corn on the cob for just $15. Both locals and tourists alike love that special, and as Garry puts it, ‘It’s the local’s place for tourists.’ Plus, every afternoon from 3 to 5 pm, littlenecks are a buck apiece; can’t beat that.
“And to pair with all this delicious food, we have a beer program that I spend a lot of time during the winter researching. This year, along with our new manager Adam Rebello, we’re keeping the list under 70 well-curated and -chosen beers. Beers specifically chosen to be the ideal companion to our menu items!”
Petey’s final thoughts: “As Jerry Garcia used to say, what a long strange trip it’s been. But I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else then O.B. Harbor. We have lots of loyal customers who have been with me since the beginning. We have been included in three national TV shows and 12 newspapers, but the highlight has to be being asked to cook dinner for President Clinton. Here’s to the next 30 years at the Coop.”
Join Petey and the entire Coop de Ville family this Sunday, June 12, for their 30th Anniversary party. Beer promotions all day, along with 30 percent off wings. Enjoy the music of Woody Pines from Nashville while sipping on beers and eating some delicious food. They’ll also be giving away two tickets to the see the Grateful Dead at Fenway Park (courtesy of Long Trail Brewing Co. and Otter Creek Brewing Co.). For more information, visit coopdevillemv.com.