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Casino Clams reopens in East Patchogue under new ownership

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For any locals wondering how they missed the pomp and circumstance surrounding a decades-old Patchogue fish market’s return, there wasn’t any.

“We didn’t do a grand opening or anything like that,” Sean Salke said from behind trays of clams and mussels. “All we did was open the front door.”

Casino Clams, now in it’s fourth decade after a nearly four-year hiatus, is a familiar and unassuming storefront along East Main Street, one that needs no introduction beyond its “fish market” rooftop display to attract a line of a half-dozen customers on a hot weekday afternoon.

At the back of the long narrow shop, the shop’s new owner, Jose Vasquez, is busy cleaning and cutting up freshly caught and flown-in Alaskan salmon. He bought the shop in July and quickly was able to reopen it.

When asked what his best seller has been in the three weeks since his new store opened, Vasquez, a reserved and apron-clad man with a steady scissor-wielding right hand, chuckled. “Little by little, it all sells,” he said.

“Most of the fish is caught locally in New York or the Northeast in the North Atlantic,” said Salke, Casino Clams employee, lifelong fisherman and fish shop operator and friend of Vasquez’s for more than 20 years. “But we also carry bronzini from the Mediterranean and Caribbean red snappers and Alaskan salmons. We got it all.”

The new venture is far from Vasquez’s maiden voyage. He said he owned a fish shop in Massapequa years ago, and ran stores in Baldwin, Bay Shore and Central Islip.

“Opportunity knocks and Jose answers,” Salke said.

‘been here just about everyday’

Salke said he believes many locals missed Casino Clams in the four years since the store closed under its last owner, and that many of them have returned.

“Everybody’s excited we’re here,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that have been coming here for a long time, second, third generation people in Patchogue. They came with their grandparents and parents. They came under the old owners and now they find us here. It’s definitely needed back in town.”

Of course, plenty of new customers come through the yellow doorway.

“I got cod and I got shrimp last time,” said customer Brian Ringgold.

Today’s order: “some cod, again,” he laughed.

After looking at the two pounds of cod on the scale, Ringgold paused before asking to double his order. After his wife said that would be too much, they met in the middle and bought just under three pounds.

“You can always come back tomorrow,” Salke said.

Ringgold said he likely would. “I’ve been here just about every day.”

kitchen coming soon

The duo said they are gearing up to provide even more fresh fish options to the Patchogue community, in the form of cooked plates.

“We’re gonna steam, broil, and fry in the near future,” Salke said. “We’re gonna put a kitchen in and get ready for everybody’s Christmas orders, Christmas is huge.”

“Lobsters are coming over too,” Vasquez said. “Lobster tanks will be up and running soon.”