Dunton’s Doghouse gets new owner

Keeping it in the family
Sat, 05/14/2022 - 4:45pm

    When Gary Starankewicz hands over the keys to Dunton’s Doghouse May 20, he’ll be keeping the popular Boothbay Harbor food stand in the family.

    The new owner is Andrew Hawke, a resident of Southport and Starankewicz’s nephew. Hawke started shadowing his uncle on Monday, May 2, learning the ropes and welcoming customers for the Doghouse’s 50th year in business.

    “Loved it!” “Perfection!” “A hidden gem!”  Those are just some of the five-star reviews Dunton’s, a Boothbay Harbor fixture, has received on travel websites like TripAdvisor.

    Starankewicz bought the business in 1999, working seven days each week between April 15 and Columbus Day. On his feet for 14 hours a day in the “clam shack” on Sea Street, he said of the tight quarters, “There’s probably more room on a boat.” 

    Starankewicz knows kitchens. He started out as a dishwasher at 15 and worked his way up to chef. “I have a knack for cooking,” he said. His talents took him to Florida where he was a chef for four-star restaurants.

    Starankewicz worked a grueling schedule as a corporate chef and in 1984 had “the largest portable kitchen in the world.” He would travel from one end of the country to the other, doing mall promotions with five shows per day, five days each week. “On the weekends, I’d do television and radio to promote the products,” he explained. Some of the brands he promoted as a corporate chef were Duncan Hines, Cool Whip and Courvoisier.

    He found his way to the Boothbay area, and was chef for Thistle Inn, Lobsterman’s Wharf, Newagen Inn and Clipper Inn (now Tugboat Inn.) He started looking for a restaurant to buy and told the realtor, if Dunton’s was on the market, he would buy it. 

    Dunton’s Doghouse has a tradition of keeping it in the family. It was started by Ed Dunton in 1972, and later run by his daughter Dawn. She sold it to Starankewicz who is not related to the Dunton family but who will now sell it to his nephew. 

    “After 54 years of cooking, I want to enjoy retirement,” Starankewicz said. “I’m on my feet all day and I never took a day off.” 

    Through the years, his contributions have been appreciated by a long list of local organizations and events including the American Legion barbecue, as well as Mutt Scrub, the animal shelter, Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library’s plant sale, Boothbay Harbor Fire Department, the Rotary’s annual auctions and many more.

    In 2021, the BRHS Facebook Messenger class poll voted Dunton’s Doghouse a favorite of the graduating seniors.

    New owner Hawke said, “I’m looking forward to it and am pretty excited to be keeping on the family tradition and the legacy of Dunton’s Doghouse after 50 years.”