Rhonda Woodman recalls climbing to the roof of the Pool with Deck one day in the late ’70s. “I remember pointing out to him that with a view like this it would be a great place for some extra seating,” she says. “He didn’t say much, which was typical, but it wasn’t long before I looked up to see that Peter Lane and John Roy were building something up there.” Built above the Lower Deck, that “something” would be dubbed “Top Deck.”
Maureen Woodman recalls how her involvement with the spot actually stems back to her first date with Doug. “It was a Wednesday and Dougie asked if I could tend bar because they needed someone on Saturday night. I knew nothing about bartending but I knew Woodman’s, having worked here for three summers, so on Saturday, July 11, 1979, I learned to tend bar, while bartending at the Pool.”
By 1982 Doug and Maureen were married, the scenic new space was complete, and Deck was sensing its potential. “The entire family was up there for one of our ‘feeds,’” says Maureen, “and Dad asked, ‘So who’s going to run the Top Deck here?’ Everyone else was busy and being the new daughter-in-law I raised my hand. ‘You got it,’ he said. Then someone said that it would make a great raw bar. When I admitted that I didn’t even know how to open a clam, someone else grabbed a knife and showed me. We pulled in $1,500 on our first night, but it was a lot of work. Since there was no refrigeration, we had to carry everything up each evening, then bring it all back down again. Sundays were the busiest, so Dougie would help out after his shift and we’d wear Hawaiian shirts to make the most of it.”
Recently renovated, the Top Deck is now an Essex summer hotspot, with frozen cocktails and plenty of refrigeration for the expertly crafted raw bar. It has also gained local renown for its live entertainment, including one-time Woodman’s fry cook, musician Jeff Fraser. “Everyone has a great time,” says Maureen of Thursday nights when seemingly half the town is “goin’ up to see Fraser.” “It really is a great spot.”
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