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By Laura Enderson
Clam Digger’s Seafood on Bridge Street offers Bedford something unique. Fresh seafood and three different areas to enjoy, with a different feel to each one.
“Each room in the place has its own personality,” owner Tina Guley said. “You get a wide variety of choices.”
The front restaurant has a true seaside feel to it, brightly lit, and decorated in blue and white. Small tables line the walls for people to grab a bite for lunch or dinner.
In the back of Clam Digger’s, there is a small pub. It has a bar that offers plenty of local Virginia and North Carolina beers and wines. In contrast to the front of the restaurant, the pub has a more classic, intimate feel to it, softly lit and decorated with memorabilia.
As a recent add-on, the spacious bar and game room is decorated in browns and blacks, creating a pleasant, casual atmosphere. It is also decorated with various memorabilia and soft lights hang from the taller ceilings. Along with more tables, there is a pool table, darts and stage for live entertainment on the weekends.
“It’s a fun place to be,” Guley said.
The new add-on was a decision Guley and her husband, Hal, made after months of heavy business.
“We decided that we were doing a stellar business, so we’d expand,” Guley said. “We just needed more room.”
The new section of the building opened on Friday, April 13, and according to Guley, is packed on the weekends.
The game room used to be the D Reynolds clothing store, which closed in December. With Store Manager Ruth Crouch’s permission, Guley left the D Reynolds signs up.
Open Tuesday- Thursday 5-9 p.m. and Friday- Saturday 11:30 a.m.- 10 p.m., Clam Digger’s offers a fresh seafood market, including seasonal items, sandwiches, appetizers and local drinks.
“What we pride ourself on is that our seafood is fresh,” Guley said. “Nothing is frozen. Nothing is pre-made.”
Guley said she feels that Clam Digger’s offers more healthy eating.
“We are probably one of the only places that doesn’t have a deep fat fryer,” she said.
Clam Digger’s tends to draw a more mature crowd, Guley said, but it is never lacking in entertainment. Guley brings in live music sporadically, mainly on weekends. At first, she planned to bring in different kinds of bands, but now she sticks to mostly acoustic, smaller bands.
“It was too loud,” Guley said. “You couldn’t talk.”
Guley wasn’t discouraged though. She simply adjusted the type of music she brought in.
“When it’s new, you have to try something before you can tell what works,” she said.
When they opened the new room, Guley said she printed more copies of the menu, but didn’t add anything new. But she adjusts the menu at the beginning of each year, often adding something new for people to order.
“We have a lot of different things to offer,” Guley said.
Clam diggers has a fresh seafood market, where people can pick out their own seafood and it can be cooked in the restaurant or can be taken home to be cooked. The market always offers the same seafood as the menu.
All of Guley’s seafood comes from two small Virginia based seafood companies. She gets two deliveries a week from both companies. Guley said the fish she buys comes directly off the dock, except for a few kinds, like catfish or rainbow trout, which are farm-raised. She only buys domestic fish; the salmon comes from Alaska.
“I’m pretty particular about what I sell,” Guley said. “And I can answer almost any question people may have about the fish.”
Clam Digger’s also offers seasonal items, like soft-shelled crabs (April-May) and hard-shelled crabs (July-Sept.). Guley also takes requests for certain seafood if it is not already on the menu.
Guley said most of her business comes from word of mouth.
“People tell me they come because ‘somebody told me to come here’ or ‘I came with friends’,” Guley said.
Clam Digger’s looks small, tucked away in the center of Bedford, but with the new added space, it is anything but that. Guley didn’t even realize the true size of the expansion until after they brought it.
“I didn’t realize it was that big,” Guley said, “until we actually started fixing it up.”
Clam Digger’s came from humble beginnings. Guley, escaping the city, moved her family to Bedford. Her husband, Hal, was originally from Bedford and loved the area. When they were deciding where to go, Hal had a request.
“[Hal] asked me, ‘Can we move to Bedford?’,’” Guley said. “And we’ve been here 17 years now.”
In the summer of 2007, Guley and her youngest son started to go to the market and sell seafood out of a cooler on Tuesday and Saturday during the summer. After awhile, she said people started to ask her were they would get their seafood after the summer. Eventually, Guley opened her own market and offered lunch.
“The plan was to sell seafood, do lunch, and be home by 5 p.m.,” Guley said. “It didn’t work.”
Guley said business was slow at first, so she asked the customers why they didn’t always come by for lunch. She said people told her they often couldn’t get out of work before she closed for the day, and some said they wanted to bring their family for dinner, so she extended her weekday hours until 9 p.m.
In 2008, Hal had a bad fall. He was out of work for six months and Guley wasn’t keen on Hal going back to work at all, due to the dangers of his job working on roofs.
“He asked me, ‘What am I going to do now?’” Guley said. “And I told him, ‘Why don’t you open a little pub?’”
After unsuccessfully looking for a place to open the pub, they decided that Clam Digger’s would be the perfect fit. They opened the pub in the back of the restaurant, shrinking the size of the kitchen.
They weren’t expecting a lot of business when the pub opened on the second Friday of July 2010, but they were pleasantly surprised.
“It was packed,” Guley said. “And it stayed packed every night after it opened.”
Guley said the pub was just what Clam Digger’s and Hal needed.
“The pub helped Hal,” Guley said. “It was his therapy to get better.”
Eventually they decided there wasn’t enough room, as the pub was crowded most nights. She went to the landlord of the building she was renting, and told him when, or if, the D Reynolds space opened up to let her know. When it did in December, she quickly rented the place and started the remodel. She said it was mostly cosmetic changes, cleaning and decorating, but they did everything themselves.
When the new room opened in April, it proved worth waiting on, Guley said.
“We’re packed most weekends. We do good business,” Guley said. “I don’t plan on going anywhere.”