BRADENTON BEACH – On May 10, the city of Bradenton Beach lost a business pioneer who helped transform Bridge Street, while never straying from her Christian and family values.
Barbara Rodocker was part of the mother-daughter tandem that owned and operated the BridgeWalk resort on Bridge Street and the Silver Surf resort on Gulf Drive. Before that, Barbara owned the Silver Sands resort on Longboat Key.
Barbara’s daughter, Angela, discussed her late mother’s life.
“This is how she defined herself: First she was a child of God, second she was mother and third she was business woman,” Angela said.
“When we were kids, she would close the business, and people would say you can’t do that. She’d say, ‘Yes I can. I’m going to my son’s baseball game.’ We always came first in her life.”
In 1971, Barbara and her husband, Paul Rodocker, moved from Lansing, Mich. to Longboat Key. Barbara bought the Silver Sands resort, demolished most of it and had it rebuilt as she envisioned. A couple of years later, she and Paul divorced, but they remained friends for the rest of her life, and they had dinner together the night before she died.
“My mom grew up counting pennies in the Depression, and she knew she wanted to be in the hotel industry. That was at a time when women didn’t get loans. Women had to fight really hard for what they were doing for business, which is very different from today. Even though my mother was the business woman, she couldn’t do anything without having my father on the loan. She went through that for years, but over 40 years she built her own legacy and greatly impacted the independent hotel industry in our area,” Angela said.
“It’s fascinating how my mother had to overcome many of the traditional battles people speak about when it comes to women’s rights, but that was nothing she ever dwelled on.”
In 1986, Barbara bought that Silver Surf property in Bradenton Beach and had that rebuilt. In 2002, the mother-daughter team built the BridgeWalk resort on Bridge Street and a year later sold the resort on Longboat Key.
“We decided we just wanted to focus on Anna Maria Island,” Angela said.
Barbara’s efforts extended beyond her for-profit endeavors.
“She fought hard for independent hoteliers; that’s why she sat on the Tourist Development Council for more than 20 years. She was a significant influence on the Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island chambers of commerce, and she was a mentor to many. She was one of the smartest women I’ve ever met, and she was so humble. She always said she went to the school of hard knocks because she never went to college.”
Barbara was also a lifelong mentor to Angela.
“At eight years old, I used to beg my mom to let me count the money at the end of the day, when we lived across the street from Silver Sands. I helped her close the office, and she started teaching me about business. I would ask her questions about taxes, and she bore into me all the knowledge she had. As an adult, she continued to mentor me by letting me make mistakes. She would allow me to make the decision, and then I and our company had to live with the consequences. She did that for the 19 years we were partners, and it set me up to continue our businesses the way she developed them. We got to create the culture together, and she led by example,” Angela said.
The community will get a chance to say their farewells during a public memorial service on Saturday, June 3, at Bayside Community Church in Bradenton. The service will start at 11 a.m., followed by a celebration of life.