Summer 2022 has been hard on the wallet of the lobster roll lover. And here in “the land of steady habits” that’s pretty much everybody. Even so, it didn’t stop Flander’s Fish Market, an East Lyme mainstay, from having a heck of a busy season. The fact that they are almost at their 40-year anniversary might have a little something to do with it too. 

The hot lobster roll clocked in at $27 this season, but that didn’t slow the steady stream of customers (many of whom the owner is on a first-name basis with) that have called it a second home, especially in the summer, for decades now. And, yes, they do the lobster roll hot, but also serve it cold, too. Flander’s even has a lobster slider. Furthermore, what they do to the BLT is nothing short of a work of art: They add some avocado and spicy seaweed salad (which is also for sale on the “market” side) to the mix. 

A lobster roll at Flander's Fish Market in East Lyme, Conn. 

A lobster roll at Flander’s Fish Market in East Lyme, Conn. 

Ali Formica / Contributed

As for that 40-year anniversary, they’re “entering that around November/December” of 2023, according to owner Paul Formica, who also happens to be a state Senator. But they will begin celebrating for an entire year leading up to it, which means the festivities begin at the end of this year.

What does the celebrating entail? For starters, a reunion. Formica has kept in touch with all of his employees over the past four decades. “I’m planning a big reunion weekend. All the kids who worked here, even back to the 80s, I’ve stayed in touch with. One of them actually lives in California and even helped my kid out with something when they were out there. It’s going be a lot of fun.” 

“Of course,” Formica continued, “we’re going to thank our customers, too. There are going to be giveaways and food specials. All year long.” 

Forty years is no small feat. Especially in the restaurant industry, and especially these past few years, when the pandemic saw a record number of Connecticut eateries close their doors permanently. The businessman and the senator sides of Formica merged then, however, with him pivoting to selling groceries and even toilet paper at one point — neither necessarily a staple at the fish market

A newspaper clipping from 1983 on the opening of Flander's Fish Market in East Lyme, Conn.

A newspaper clipping from 1983 on the opening of Flander’s Fish Market in East Lyme, Conn.

Ali Formica / Contributed

“This year was a tough one too. Since inflation started to surge there were a lot of products — some name ones that we’ve used for decades that I’m very particular about — that were just unavailable. Inflation added costs. We’re re-pricing things every week. But we’re lucky. Eight hundred restaurants closed during the pandemic here in Connecticut.” 

Formica and his late wife Donna founded the fish market in 1983 at 22 Chesterfield Road. Daughters Olivia Ali have been taking on more and more of the restaurant’s day-to-day operations in recent years, with the former even being the Executive Chef. 

“We’ve been on a roll, we like to say,” Formica joked, a reference to their revered lobster rolls. “But we’ve been on The Food Network for our fish & chips,” he was quick to point out too. “They highlighted us on a show called ‘The Best Of.’ Fish & chips was the category. We did that but we were also elected into the Connecticut Hospitality hall of Fame.” 

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