SACO — Karen and Chuck Forzley sat at a table on Tuesday inside Skippers Seafood and Rotisserie, the restaurant they’ve owned at 27 Elm St. in Saco for more than 21 years.

The restaurant is decorated in a nautical theme, with coastal scenes on the windows hand-painted by a local artist and wall decorations, some of which were given to them by customers.

The restaurant was empty and quiet, a stark change from the usual bustle of regular customers who come to enjoy the seafood dinners and fresh-made sandwiches.

After taking the month of September off to attend their son’s wedding in Florida and spend time with family, the couple decided to close the restaurant and retire.

“It’s never a good time to say you’re done, but this is the right time,” said Chuck. “I’ve been in this business over 40 years, and I’m not getting younger.”

The two met while working in the restaurant industry, and have worked together through their 38 years of marriage. Owning a restaurant becomes a lifestyle, said Chuck, and requires dedication and long hours.

Despite the long hours, it was an enjoyable ride. The customers became like family, including the 98-year-old woman who came every Friday for salmon pie, or the couple that made the restaurant their first stop when returning to Maine for the summer, or the countless others whose orders Karen knew without asking.

“That’s what made it worth it – the customers who came back again and again and again,” said Karen.

“We created an atmosphere where people felt at home.”

The restaurant, they said, was busy through the end.

“We’ve seen a lot of restaurants come and go. We were very fortunate,” said Chuck. “We were a gathering place for a lot of people.”

When the couple moved to Maine from Connecticut, they saw a niche that needed to be filled with a seafood restaurant open year-round. They supplemented the seafood menu with rotisserie chicken and sandwiches, even traveling to New York to do research on the best sandwich bread.

Chuck and Karen adjusted the menu to what the customers wanted, and the food was consistent. Return customers came into the restaurant knowing they could get their favorites and it would be prepared the same way it was the last time they were in.

The couple don’t have any set plans for now but want to enjoy their newly found free time.

Chuck and Karen are looking for someone to lease the building to continue what they started or find a restaurant niche of their own. They say they’ve had several responses from interested parties.

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