A boatyard is not often a starting place for a career as a restaurateur, but it was for Joe Perry Jr.
In the early 2000s, Perry was employed at Eaton’s Boatyard in Castine, working for third-generation owner Kenny Eaton. That history of family ownership got Perry thinking about his own family’s historic business, and if he might revive it.
Perry’s grandfather, Charles, opened what became Perry’s Restaurant as a lunch counter on Main Street in Bangor in 1949. When he died, his son Joe Sr. took over and ran it until his own death. The restaurant closed in 1995, when the property was taken by eminent domain to make way for a supermarket.
“It was kind of a landmark on Main Street,” said Joe Jr. of the Bangor eatery. It was, as a sign on the front of the building proclaimed, “Famous for Clams.”
In 2010, Perry made the leap from boatyard to kitchen when he and his wife, Marybeth McGinley, opened The Brick House on Main Street in Searsport.
It is, as the name suggests, in a brick building — part of a block that dates to 1860 in this historic waterfront town that produced scores of ship’s captains in the 19th century. The name of an earlier eatery that filled the space, Seafarer’s, reflected that heritage.
Perry said the menu at The Brick House features American comfort food and pub fare, with a regular rotation of specials. Fried clams, of course, are a staple — the first item on the menu, in fact — and there’s a tie-in with history there, too.
Perry gets his clams from Gomm’s Seafood in neighboring Prospect. Owner Marion Gomm is connected to the Pomeroy family in Stockton Springs, which used to supply Cap Morrill’s in Brewer — which was where the clams at Perry’s Restaurant came from.
The Brick House uses the same secret family recipe that was used in Bangor, and the result has won multiple awards from local publications for best fried clams in the area.
Other menu items reflect the family’s ancestry — “My grandfather was Irish Catholic,” said Perry — such as the Irish fries, which are French fries topped with house-made corned beef hash and smothered with homemade cheese sauce.
Another item that came from Bangor is a black, painted wooden sign that simply says “CLAMS.” Perry said it was made for the Bangor restaurant in 1959, and when the man who made it heard Perry’s was closing in 1995, he went and got it. Then, when he heard that Perry and McGinley had opened The Brick House, he came and gave it to them.
“That’s been the best part — all the people I meet,” Perry said. “It’s all about the people. If you don’t have the people, it’s nothing.”