A fisherman in a kayak prepares to buy bait at the newly
reopened Rod and Reel Pier in Anna Maria.
MIKE FIELD | SUN
ANNA MARIA – Without fanfare, the Rod and Reel restaurant opened its doors to the public on Friday, Feb. 7, for the first time since a fire damaged it four months ago.
The fire, which started near the stove, produced thick smoke, but few flames, as it burned inside the walls, but the damage was just part of the reason it took so long to get it back into shape.
“The reason it took so long was it had to be brought up to 2010 code,” said assistant manager Ted Pasquantonio. “That’s why almost everything in there is new.”
The stove was on, and the staff was anxious and glad to be back to work as customers came in and ordered breakfast.
Charlene and Rick Doll, of Anna Maria, were the first customers through the door. Rick had the first cup of coffee and after breakfast, they went downstairs to the redesigned bar and had the first beer.
Becca and Tom Lieb, from Philadelphia, were glad it reopened before they left for home.
“One reason we come to the Island is the Rod and Reel Pier,” said Becca Lieb. “We’re leaving today and we’ve been coming here for the past four years.”
Manatee County Sheriff’s Deputy Gary Sellitto was there when the dining room filled with smoke. He inspected the facility at that point and when he saw smoke in the kitchen, he asked the customers to leave. For his actions, the Sheriff’s Office named him its deputy of the month for October.
He returned for breakfast Friday.
“It’s a big improvement over the old one,” he said. “I’m glad it’s the same format as the old one, but they had to make changes to meet the code.”
Marie Marsh, from Marion, Ohio, was the last customer to leave the restaurant, and she returned Friday for breakfast and to check out the new interior.
“This is a new beginning, a new chapter,” she said. “I’m glad it’s still here.”
Marsh and her family have been coming to the Island for 34 years, and they always ate at the Rod and Reel when they came, she said.
Jerry Hill, from Indiana, ate breakfast also. He has been coming to the Island for several years.
“I enjoyed the meal this morning and I’m glad it’s open,” he said.
After the fire, J&J Graphics owner Joan Carter drew up a T-shirt design using the one the restaurant uses for its shirts. She added funny descriptions to the food on the logo in the theme of the fire, for instance, “roasted oysters” instead of “fried,” and “scorched jalapeno peppers” instead of “hot.” She made an agreement with All Island Denominations to give the proceeds, after her expenses, to them to help the employees, who were suddenly put out of work, with their expenses. She said to-date, the blue colored shirts have raised $15,000 for the cause, and she still has shirts in stock in all sizes. Kandy Kerekes, of Three Island Monkeys in Island Sun Plaza is also selling shirts.
“I’m going to print more and sell them through the first week of March,” she said. “After that, they become collector’s items.”
Carter said people have been very generous in buying the shirts, which are available for a $20 donation.
“I had one man who wanted a shirt in a different color, so I printed it for him, and he got one for his wife,” she said, “After I gave them to him, he gave me a check for $1,000.”