BRADENTON BEACH – Built in the 1940s on the Gulf, the Mira Mar restaurant was where locals went for a good meal and good company. Forty years ago, a restaurateur named Jack Pearsall bought it and turned it into one of the area’s premier night spots.
Bob and June Sheldon purchased the restaurant, then known as T.J.’s Steakhouse, in the 1960s. The couple, who had traveled the country with their comedy and dance act, renamed the restaurant Bob Sheldon’s Mira Mar, added a stage and dance floor and offered shows every weekend.
The Sheldons added the Monkey Bar, an outside bar that oozed Island atmosphere, and packed in the crowds. Customers from all over the country sent stuffed monkeys to hang in the bar.
Pearsall renamed the restaurant Trader Jack’s, closed the Monkey Bar and enlarged the building, redecorating it in a nautical theme. He offered nightly entertainment with dancing in the Wheelhouse Lounge.
Pearsall was also a showman and began offering variety shows for diners to enjoy. Annual productions included a circus show and abbreviated versions of Broadway shows such as "Cabaret" and "Show Boat," with employees performing as singers, actors and dancers.
In 1977, Pearsall sold the restaurant to a Vermont grocer Phil Fayette and his partner. The restaurant continued to thrive until Fayette was hit with a double whammy in 1985. The restaurant closed after Fayette was charged with income tax evasion and Hurricane Elena roared through the Gulf, seriously damaging the building.
The property was purchased in 1986 by the State of Vermont in a foreclosure sale. A year later the building was destroyed by an arsonist’s fire, leaving only a concrete shell that was bulldozed a week later.
In 1987 George and Wendy Kokolis purchased the property from the State of Vermont.