Kristian Nyman bought Ford's Lobsters in Noank thinking he’d make all his money in three months and have winters off.
Orion Ford, the late owner, hinted in 2005 that it might be harder than that.
Nyman said he told him of the dock and lobster business: “You’ll never make it work.”
But the first season, business was great. Then the economy tanked, fuel prices soared and grocery stores started selling lobsters to restaurants, undercutting sales.
So Nyman bought a hot dog cart for $2,000, put it down by the water with white plastic tables and chairs, and started selling hot dogs and lobster rolls to boaters.
“You just keep on going, that’s what you do,” said Nyman, 40. “You go to work.”
Next, Tropical Storm Irene wiped out the docks at the height of the season. Nyman's friends arrived with cranes and heavy equipment, and Nyman and the group rebuilt them in four days.
"It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen,” his wife, Kerrie Nyman said.
Kristian Nyman started at Ford’s at age 18 as a gas boy, tying up vessels, sorting lobsters and fueling boats. He left for four years to work as a cook at Foxwoods, Mohegan Sun and then in Vermont, but stayed in touch with Ford. They were friends, he said.
In 1998, Ford asked him to come back. Nyman agreed, and once again became his only employee.
In 2005, after Orion Ford became ill, Kristian Nyman bought the business. He now lives down the street in the house Orion Ford formerly lived in.
This past January, Nyman built a kitchen to prepare food for the hot dog cart. He made the kitchen in part of a barn formerly used to store 35,000 pounds of lobsters in tanks.
Then, since he already had the kitchen, he went further and turned the rest of the barn into a restaurant. It opened Columbus Day weekend. It's open from 11:30 a.m. until 9 p.m., seven days a week.
There's still rebuilding ahead. Hurricane Sandy damaged the docks, took 25 feet of shoreline and destroyed the seawall.
But Nyman remains busy.
“This is sort of the epitome of a small business in a small town, and living here we’ve gone like 20 years without a hurricane or any serious storm, and then we got them back to back,” said Kerrie Nyman. “And the town, I mean people come together, and they help. I think we’ve been very supported here.”