A BEACH FAREWELL
SUN PHOTO/PAT COPELAND
The outside patio at Cafe on the Beach was filled
to capacity with well wishers Saturday.
HOLMES BEACH – Music, food and drink flowed along with tears as Tommy Vayias, John Menihtas and Dee and Gene Schaefer greeted friends Saturday, their final day at Café on the Beach at Manatee County Public Beach.
“Although I don’t have many years under my belt, these were the best ones,” Vayias said. “I loved serving the community and the residents. It was a privilege. It was a wonderful experience. I’ll miss all the people.”
“I have loved every single minute I’ve been here,” Dee added. “Most of all, I’ll miss all the people.”
The Schaefers, who had the concession contract since the 1990s, subcontracted it to Vayias and Menihtas, of Café on the Beach, in 2004, but continued to operate the gift shop called the Beach Shop.
However, earlier this year Manatee County commissioners agreed to take proposals on the concession and gift shop contract and eventually awarded it to United Park Services of Tampa, which took over operations last week.
As they enjoyed a buffet provided by the Café, people praised Vayias and Menihtas, but also continued to express their disappointment with the county commission’s decision.
One vocal group included employees of the Coquina Beach concession, which also was awarded to UPS, family members and friends. Three of the employees had quit that day.
“I was manager at Coquina for 14 years,” Larry Wedrow said. “I was very disappointed with the county’s decision.”
Rich Radenheimer, who had been at Coquina for four years, added, “We’re celebrating our final day, and we’re sorry that the company did not get the bid. I was there because it was a pleasure working for Tommy and John.”
“The new owners will have to go a long way to top our quality,” declared 12-year employee Bill Herrington.
Teddy Wedrow stressed, “Tommy and John have been the best bosses to their employees. They are hands on from morning until night.”
“We hate to see Tommy go; he was so good for the beach.” Gerri Rathvon.
“We’ll really miss Tommy; he’s a great guy. The county commission really did him wrong." Don Aument.
“Look at the people who are here. This has been a really nice place to bring guests to.” Mary Gates.
“What the county commission did was wrong. I hope the people vote then out of office.” - John Rathvon
“We’ll miss Tommy terribly. The food and service were great and the prices were fair. I don’t know what else you could ask for.” John Martin.
“What happened is a shame.” - Carol and Mark Gallagher.
“Tommy and John have done a fabulous job. It’s been wonderful, but I wish the county commissioners would have listened to the people.” - Melinda Weiss.
“I’ll miss my boss, Tommy. He is a great guy.” - Annie Manzella.