Twenty years ago, Joanne and Ross Currie bought a restaurant on the corner of Pomeroy Avenue and Cypress Street in Pismo Beach and began working to improve a clam chowder recipe.
Now, the couple is celebrating their 20th anniversary of Splash Café by offering free cups of their signature chowder with every purchase of an entrée in December.
The Curries purchased the Pismo Beach restaurant in 1991, a year after it was turned from a Mexican restaurant into a fish and chips joint. In 2005, they opened a location on Monterey Street in San Luis Obispo.
It also offers a full-service bakery and produces Sweet Earth Chocolates, which the Curries co-own with Joanne’s brother Tom Neuhaus and his wife, Eve.
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Over the past 20 years, the Curries have seen their chowder sales grow from 5,000 gallons a year in 1992 to 30,000 gallons a year at both locations. They offer gourmet catering and package their chowder for Costco stores in San Luis Obispo and in the Central Valley.
In the first seven years, the business grew 100 percent year over year, but growth has softened since then.
Joanne Currie said the couple determined that they could stay in business the first year if they could make at least $400 a day — a goal they achieved every day but one that year. Now, the business, including the Costco sales and the two restaurants, brings in about $2 million a year of gross revenue, she said.
Sales have remained steady during the economic downturn over the past few years, she said.
“Pismo as a community has always enjoyed a very loyal customer base and has been protected from the downturn,” she said, noting that many customers travel to the coast from the Central Valley. “When things went south people from the Valley still come to the beach.”