It’s a story of success. For over 30 years, the iconic Eric Ericsson’s, now anchored on the Ventura Pier, served as the neighborhood go-to restaurant. Known for the area’s freshest seafood and consistently great views, the restaurant’s owner, Eric Wachter, poured his heart and soul into it daily.
But just two years ago, he cast his daughter, Kiona Wachter, for the new role as Beach House Fish’s new owner. With her dad an accomplished chef and successful entrepreneur, Kiona admits she had big shoes to fill.
Since taking over, Kiona did what she does best…she enhanced everything – including changing the name.
The menu was washed with new flavors, cocktails were infused, the beer selection grew craftier and the wine list matured.
“I wanted to give everything a very rustic and genuine fish market taste and feel,” says Kiona, who evolved the decor with a comfortable self-seating dining room and views of the ocean from the dining counter.
Shifting the dining experience from traditional table service to counter service was the biggest change. In an effort to eliminate the reputation of only being a “special occasion” restaurant, Kiona focused on creating a more casual, inviting atmosphere. She designed a fish market style menu which allows the customer to choose their own seafood selections, and then choose how they want it prepared. Customers can also choose from a variety of unique side dishes from jalapeno zucchini corn fritters and Asian cucumber salad to seafood Mac & cheese and the classic clam chowder.
When you create a wave of change, it’s bound to wash up all sorts of remarks. The move exposed Kiona to an earful of commentary about the changes she was making.
“There are regulars who have been with us for a long time, and the move to counter service was definitely an adjustment for some, while others embraced the change saying this is what Ventura has been missing,” said Kiona. “The hardest part is being the daughter and hearing, ‘the daughter ruined it.’ But then there are the ones who were at first skeptical, but after trying the food and loving it, they forgot that they didn’t have table service before,” she says. “That is the biggest satisfaction.”
One thing’s for sure, Kiona takes customer loyalty very seriously.
“It’s an honor that my dad turned his success over to me, and I’m conscious of that responsibility every day,” says Kiona. “There were days when it was frightening. I’ve always been comfortable with the creative end of the business – menu creation and serving in a chef’s role. But then I started to manage food costs and people… it was all new to me.”
While many of the items on the menu changed, Kiona was careful not to change what had been successful. Customers will still find the restaurant’s signature jalapeno beer batter for the fish n’ chips and the longtime customer favorite, clam chowder.
The value of relationships
It does help to know her dad is just a call away, but Kiona relies less and less on him. Other relationships have given her an added comfort level with running the show.
With 90 percent of supplies and food sourcing delivered by Jordano’s, Kiona appreciates making one call for order changes, advice and product needs.
“I’ve actually had a connection with my Jordano’s account executive for many years. He dated my cousin,” she says with a laugh. “But that relationship makes a huge difference when I have questions or need to understand how to choose a new french fry. I know that he will give me the most honest answers and prices.”
When her father was asked what his vision was for the next 30 years, he said his dream was to see the legacy continue with his daughter. As a relatively young business owner, Kiona respects the past but is always evolving and staying on top of trends. It’s that entrepreneurial spirit that will likely ensure Beach House Fish thrives for many more decades to come.
For more information on Beach House Fish visit www.BeachHouseFish.com.