EASTHAM — When Nathan Nickerson III started Arnold’s Lobster & Clam Bar with his then-wife and two friends, they had a one-year lease on a Route 6 shack and needed a hook to make it work. 

“We came up with Arnold’s because Arnold was all the rage back then because of ‘Happy Days,’” he said, referring to the restaurant featured in the popular sitcom set in the 1950s. “We did a ‘50s theme, roller skating car hops, hula hoops, the whole nine yards.” 

Almost nothing from that first iteration of Arnold’s is the same -- the theme, the location, the wife -- but the name has persevered. Now in its 40th season, Arnold’s is continuing to serve fried seafood, ice cream and lobster rolls to tourists and locals alike. 

Nickerson sold the business in 1988, but bought it back in 1993, the same year a fire leveled the property and forced them to rebuild. He added a miniature golf course in 2007, but otherwise has kept the operation relatively stable since then, giving families a chance to cool off and have some fun while on vacation.  

“How can you be angry and upset when you’re eating ice cream?” he said. 

What is the most important thing your business does? We provide the highest quality of food and service the customers will receive on Cape Cod. 

How long have you been in business? Since 1976.

What did you do before? As a young man I worked for my father in construction when I was going through school and through college. I went into the Navy pilot program and, not surprisingly, I ended up with an ulcer so they kicked me out. I came back to Cape Cod and thought ‘What am I going to do here?’ There’s only two things you can do here — the tourist industry and the building industry, so this is where I ended up.  

How big is your staff? 65 people 

How has the market changed since your business started? It’s a lot more expensive, a lot more demanding and the profit margin has dropped. Government regulation has increased and labor has changed so much. In the beginning we used to hire high school kids and college kids, and then colleges started to open up earlier. Now we’re getting as many foreign kids in here as we can to keep it going. 

What are your plans for your business' future? I won’t sell it again. These people who have been here 20, 30 years wouldn’t have a job. I’m not going to sell it from underneath them. I’ll just keep going; when I’m gone, it will be up to (my staff), maybe my daughter and fiancee, to run it and keep it going. That’s the plan. 

What's your most memorable moment with this business? We got a yellow lobster in here (in 2009), and they’re pretty rare. It was blasted all over the country and all over the world. Friends of mine who were sailing in the Mediterranean got news on their yachting newspaper about it. That was pretty cool. 

What advice do you have for someone starting out in business? Don’t. Not here, unless you plan on keeping it very small and you’re going to work it hard yourself and work 100 hours a week during the summer. If you can pull that off, then do it. 

What's the biggest challenge about having a business on Cape Cod? There are two — the most important is labor, but No. 2 is trying to keep the government from putting more layers of taxes on you. We are burdened beyond belief with taxes. 

What's the best thing about having a business on Cape Cod? Living on the Cape, and in this particular business that we’re closed October to May. That’s the very best. That’s what keeps us all going. 

— Follow Sean F. Driscoll on Twitter: @seanfdriscoll.