Canoe Club restaurant changes ownership

by Gabriel Onate | 9/22/17 2:05am

by Adrian Russian / The Dartmouth

In mid-July, former Canoe Club owner John Chapin announced that he sold the restaurant to a group of partners that included its longtime bartender, Daniel Levitt. The announcement came amid other major changes to the Hanover restaurant scene, including the abrupt closure of Everything But Anchovies in May and the closure of Thai Orchid in July.

Levitt said that he purchased the restaurant along with three other partners, Daniella Reichstetter Tu’07, Curt Welling ’71 Tu’77 and Liam McCarthy, a Hanover-based real estate agent.

“I thought it could be a good opportunity,” he said in regard to his purchase of the restaurant.

Levitt said that all three of his partners are experienced in long-term strategic planning and that he believes their experience will greatly benefit the restaurant.

As Canoe Club’s bartender for over 14 years, Levitt believes his experience running the bar and familiarity with its patrons will also be an asset to him in his new role. Canoe Club server Simone Wasick said that the restaurant’s customers often come looking for Levitt because of his relationships with the townspeople. Josh Davis Gr’18 agreed.

“Daniel has a rapport with every single customer ... it’s amazing,” he said. However, Wasick added that she feared that the announcement of the sale initially made some customers “nervous” about potential changes to the restaurant, but most of the Canoe Club’s clientele have returned. Levitt echoed Wasick’s observations.

“I think it’s hard — the sale was pretty public,” he said. “It was in the paper, so people wondered immediately ‘Oh, ok, now what?’ We’re paying a bit of a cost right now, in terms of public perception.”

Levitt said that he and his partners plan to implement new changes to the restaurant, which he called “refreshed ideas.” These include hiring a new chef, who is set to start in November, and making various aesthetic improvements to the dining space.

He added that he and his partners are also in the process of repairing some of the restaurant’s infrastructure, a series of changes that Levitt said most customers would not notice. Levitt explained that since the restaurant’s opening in 2003, “invisible” changes to the Canoe Club have provided customers with a sense of continuity and have allowed the restaurant to build a lasting legacy.

He said that although changes to the restaurant may seem subtle to customers, they will take some time to implement in full.

“I think it’s frustrating. You always want more done. I seem to want more done than there are hours in a day. I think it’s going smoothly, but never fast enough for me,” Levitt said.

Wasick said that the pace of changes at the restaurant will give longtime customers the opportunity to adjust to them gradually.

“Lots of positive changes are happening. Just little by little, because we don’t want to do too many changes too fast and put a shock in everybody,” she said.

Wasick — who began working at the Canoe Club in January ­— said that her transition to the restaurant’s new ownership structure has been smooth.

She added that the Canoe Club’s management as a whole has transitioned fairly seamlessly.

“Everything’s worked out fine,” she said. “It was a little tough at first getting new employees and losing others — not because we got new owners but just because employees decide to come and go. We all just grew together and that made us look forward to what this new Canoe was going to be like.”