CORTEZ – Webster’s Dictionary defines a philanthropist as “one who makes an active effort to promote human welfare.”
Swordfish Grill General Manager Bob Slicker’s dedication to philanthropy and helping others makes him The Sun’s Person of the Year for 2017.
In late August, Slicker supported manager Adam Sears’ suggestion to partner with local charter captains to organize a relief effort for Texans impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
Slicker promoted the effort on Facebook and within hours the Swordfish Grill parking lot became a staging area that produced enough supplies to fill four trailers.
“Bob stresses how important it is to give back,” Sears said.
A second relief effort was planned, but waylaid by Hurricane Irma’s visit to southwest Florida. Irma also delayed until October the annual Giving Back fundraiser hosted by the Swordfish Grill and website developer and Sarasota Post publisher Sande Caplin.
The 2017 Giving Back event benefited The Blessing Bags Project and its efforts to assist the homeless and those trying to avoid homelessness. In 2016, Giving Back benefited Feeding Empty Little Tummies of Manatee County, an organization that provides needy students with food-filled backpacks.
“It’s an honor to know Bob and be a part of what he does. Bob and I have been working together for four years. This year we raised more than $20,000 for The Blessing Bags Project. In 2018, the recipient is going to be Hungers End. They feed the homeless every Monday night and help homeless people throughout the week,” Caplin said.
In November, the Swordfish Grill hosted the annual Stone Crab Festival, which benefits the Fishing for Freedom Manatee Chapter.
In December, the Swordfish Grill hosted a Christmas breakfast and holiday celebration for 83 children and family members from The Blessing Bags Project.
For Slicker, fundraising is a family affair.
“My parents were always community-minded. My mom, Ellen Scott, takes part in almost every fundraiser I do,” he said.
On Christmas Day, he and his adult daughters, Colleen and Molly, hopped in his 1963 Pontiac Star Chief and helped Hungers End feed the homeless. In April, Slicker and the other managers took turns behind the bar, donated their tips and helped Molly raise $8,000 for Cycle for Survival in honor of Molly’s friend who died of cancer.
The Swordfish Grill hosted benefits for Mack Doss and Danny Nemeth and participated in fundraising dinners for a Big Brother Big Sister fundraiser and Ducks Unlimited. The Swordfish Grill’s annual mullet fishing tournament and a Fourth of July hot dog eating contest benefit charitable causes, as do the weekly Wednesday Extravaganzas and Tuesday NASCRAB races.
During a Lightning watch party last spring, Slicker made an impromptu fundraising decision that provided a preschool in Bradenton $800 to put toward a new fence.
“We make everything a fund-raiser,” Slicker said. “I’m involved now with making a passport for Cortez Village that will benefit the Florida Maritime Museum.”
Management and staff
In February 2013, Slicker started working at the Swordfish Grill as a part-time bartender while recovering from a head injury. He was named general manager on Oct. 15, 2014.
Assisted by his management team and staff and empowered by owner John Banyas, Slicker has a created a work environment that encourages good times and good will.
“It all stems from my belief that I’ve accomplished nothing without somebody else’s help. I’m very grateful for John. Whatever idea we come up with, we know we have his support. I work with no fear. We talk with our employees about saving money, and we’re working on getting them insurance this year. That was one of my five-year goals,” Slicker said.
His management team includes longtime friends Katrina Cox and Greg Koeper.
“You expect a lot of us, but you expect a lot of yourself as well. It’s important to you that people like working here and have fun. You care about their lives outside of their job,” Cox said.
“He allows you to do your job, and it’s a very giving, all-for-one, one-for-all kind of deal,” Koeper added.
Slicker has turned the Swordfish Grill’s bayfront patio into one of the area’s most active music venues.
“I’m very adamant about hiring local talent and providing opportunities for local musicians. We have live music nine times a week, year-round because I love live music and local musicians.”
Ted Stevens has been playing the Swordfish Grill since it opened.
“The staff and patrons make for a fun, energetic atmosphere. Bob Slicker is a blueprint of how to live a good life. He is charitable, cares about the community, the environment, his family, his friends and his employees. He leads by example and his selfless acts are infectious,” Stevens said.
Cox and Slicker have been friends for 17 years, but in 2017 their friendship blossomed into romance.
“He’s my best friend and he has the biggest heart of anyone I know,” Cox said.
“I’m looking forward to 2018 and having Katrina Cox by my side,” Slicker said. “She helps me keep all this organized, and she keeps me humble.”