The Wee Chippy in Venice continues to thrive during the pandemic
By Sara Edwards
Nestled in a 110-square-foot space on the Ocean Front Walk in Venice is a little walk-up counter where the fresh-battered cod and hand-cut chips are sizzling all day long. The Wee Chippy, open since 2013, is a fish and chips booth where Glasgow native Joe Gorrie puts a unique twist on the classic Scottish delicacy.
Prior to starting his business, Gorrie worked in television and media writing, and would travel back and forth between Brooklyn and Venice. His friends would always ask him to make his fresh chips, the Scottish term for French fries.
“I am in no way a chef, but back in Scotland we ate potatoes with everything and that was the one thing I could make really well,” Gorrie says.
Gorrie decided that before he returned to Brooklyn for another writing gig, he wanted to do something different and fun over the summer, so he opened The Wee Chippy to bring European-style chips to Venice. Gorrie didn’t have any business experience or knowledge on what it took to open a restaurant, but he says that in a way, that’s what helped him become so successful.
“I wasn’t looking to make a living out of this or make money, I just wanted to do something fun for the summer,” he says. “I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but it worked out really well.”
At first, Gorrie was going to offer fresh cut and fried chips with a variety of dipping sauces for customers to choose from. But while he was living in Brooklyn, he stumbled upon a small shop that had walls lined from floor to ceiling with different salts and seasonings. This was what sparked Gorrie’s idea to let people combine and create their own flavors to infuse their fresh fried chips with, from options like Applewood Smoked to California Rosemary.
“We cut the potatoes fresh on the spot,” Gorrie says. “I wanted to find a way to be different and that turned out to be the various flavors I could put on the fry.”
The Wee Chippy is raved about all across the world and has been featured in The New York Times and on BBC. Gorrie says The Wee Chippy has earned high ratings from customers on Yelp and through delivery services like Uber Eats.
At first, Gorrie was only selling custom flavored French fries, but he eventually discovered that while there were a number of stands and booths for street food like tacos and hot dogs, fish and chips seemed to only be made and sold in a sit-down restaurant.
His business then went from selling chips to including battered and fried Atlantic cod. They even started adding variations of fish and chips, such as a plant-based cod for vegans and a gluten-free
The Wee Chippy also strives to be environmentally friendly with recycled food packaging that is biodegradable and cooking oil that is recycled at biofuel companies.
“You think of a normal restaurant where they throw so much away with massive waste,” Gorrie says. “We operate on zero waste.”
The pandemic has been especially hard on restaurants and food businesses, and Gorrie says that for a while when the beaches were closed during the summer, he was worried he’d have to lay off his team or even close The Wee Chippy.
“I thought it was going to be horrible,” Gorrie says. “But we were able to reopen and we were busier than ever.”
Gorrie says that because they’re a walk-up where people order food to go, the business has been able to continue to be successful during the pandemic. When they reopened, they asked people to wear masks and follow social distancing protocols when waiting in line so they could continue serving their fresh, classic dish.
“A lot of our customers are locals and they know us,” Gorrie says. “Honestly, I’m so blessed because the pandemic really has not affected us that badly.”
The Wee Chippy is open from noon to 7 p.m. daily. Visit weechippy.com for more information.