NEWBURYPORT — Currently it is a fixture of the Newburyport dining scene, but when the Starboard Galley opened on Water Street in January of 1978, things got a little dicey with the Blizzard of ’78 hitting less than a month later.
“We had to close,” said Donna Greco, the Galley’s bookkeeper and wife of owner, Eugene “Geno” Greco. “At the time, we lived in Arlington so we couldn’t get up here for two weeks. (But) we had a manager who could come in and as soon as we could travel, we came back up.”
The Greco family kept coming and so have the customers for the past 36 years which the family-owned, casual dining restaurant will be celebrating Jan. 26, one of the longest running restaurants in the city.
“The summer of that year was absolutely amazing,” Greco said of 1978. “It was our first summer and it was amazing.”
Hailing from the Middlesex County area, Greco wasn’t quite sure what to make of pre-revitalization Newburyport.
“It was somewhat desolate and it was rundown,” Greco said of the downtown area in 1978. “When I was told that this is where (Geno) was looking at a restaurant I said; ‘In Newburyport?’ I had come to Plum Island when I was a girl and it was very rundown. And in a matter of a few years, it just transformed into what we know today.”
Part of a foursome of original downtown restaurants, the Galley grew and the Grecos watched as Newburyport came alive.
“There was us, there was 10 Center St., Michael’s (Harborside) and the Grog,” said Greco. “And Richard (Simpkins) still owns the Grog, so we are the only two original owners left.”
Along the way, the Greco family expanded both the Galley’s kitchen and deck, even after a fire in 1989 destroyed the front of the building.