Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, August 10, 2017
From teacher to cookbook writer: Dodge reflects on decades in Stonington
by Monique Labbe
Bob Dodge may be a fixture in the Stonington community these days, but when he moved here toward the end of the 1970s he was “just another transplant.”
At the time, Dodge came to Maine as an educator, having spent time teaching in schools in Coalinga, Calif. When he got to Stonington, Dodge said complications with his teaching credits between California and Maine led him to a change of profession. In 1980 he bought The Cap’n’s Quarters, a motel owned by Adeline Dodge, with whom he had no relation. He changed the name to The Captain’s Quarters Motel, which he ran until 1996.
“At that time, [the motel] was the only place to stay that was open year round,” said Dodge. “I met so many interesting people, it was a fun way to get to know the people visiting the community.”
After he sold the motel, which became Inn on the Harbor, to Christina Shipps, Dodge found himself with an opportunity to purchase the Bay View Restaurant.
“I knew nothing of the restaurant business, but then I had known nothing of the motel business either, I just kind of learned as I went,” he said.
Dodge owned the Bay View until closing the restaurant in 2005, which served as his retirement. While retirement means slowing down for some, Dodge said he does not feel as though he has slowed down at all.
“It just means I’ve found other ways to spend my time,” said Dodge. “Working in the yard, attending school board meetings, there’s always something to do.”
Dodge may have come to the island with the intention to teach, but it was the ocean air one morning, as the fog rose over the harbor on his first visit to Stonington while staying at The Cap’n’s Quarters, that solidified his decision to make this his permanent home.
“I was standing there, the fog coming off the water with the sun shining behind it, and I thought ‘I could stay here.’ I bought this house and have been here ever since,” he said.
Much has changed in Stonington since Dodge made the decision to move here 40 years ago. One of those major things, he said, is the change in the downtown area.
“When I got here, there was only one place to stay and eat year-round,” he said. “What we did have in town was a hardware store, a place to buy groceries, the post office was in the middle of downtown. What I loved so much about the location of my home was that I could walk to everything I need. Now we don’t seem to attract as many businesses in a year-round capacity.”
A lack of young people on the island is also a difference noted by Dodge, who said that the student population has been in a steady decline for some time now.
“Things have changed dramatically, but the good people who live here, that does not change,” he said.
Though Dodge left the restaurant business 12 years ago, his food has continued to be a topic of discussion and desire for his loyal customers. When he sold the restaurant, Dodge fielded questions about his recipes for years before finally deciding to put fingers to keyboard and develop a cookbook featuring some of his menu items. It took seven years for the project to come to fruition, but the book was finished in the spring, he said.
“I didn’t want to be writing out recipes for people my whole life,” he said with a chuckle. “Now people can get some of their favorite, and my favorite, recipes from the restaurant.”
The cookbook is available at various businesses in town and can also be picked up from Dodge.
Dodge has reached a new chapter in his life, with his house up for sale and a goal to move back to the Bay area in California by winter.
“I love this community, but the cold has just gotten to me after all these years,” he said. “But this community has been very good to me, and I feel a connection to it.”