Two longtime restaurants in Naples are closing at the end of the month and another local landmark soon may be history.
Ric's Cafe & Grill
Q: Stopped at Ric's Cafe & Grill at Ninth Street North and a sign informs friends and patrons that he will be closing at the end of April. A true loss. Best bagels and fresh-made bagel and egg sandwich in town.
— Harry Harabedian, Naples
A: It's true. Ric's Cafe & Grill owner Ric Thomas sold his Naples business and property late last year after operating an eatery for more than 11 years on the corner of U.S. 41 and Seventh Avenue North.
Ric's Cafe, which will close by April 30, was previously Manhattan Bagel from about 1998 until 2004. Thomas operated the bagel chain location for about the last four years of the franchise.
Thomas, 62, plans a well-earned hiatus, but don't expect him to step too far away from the grill for too long. Negotiations have been ongoing for him to reopen elsewhere and maybe even expand Ric's in the area.
"I signed a contract on a place on the East Trail," Thomas said. "I can't really say where on the East Trail, but it's not too far out."
This future location possibly could function as a central commissary kitchen to provide baked goods for two additional express units in Naples — one near Pine Ridge Road and one near his current location downtown. The satellite locations, at about 1,200 to 1,400 square feet each, would be smaller than the original location and offer a reduced deli menu, Thomas said.
"We are still in the process of debating how to do that," he said. "I'm trying to talk myself out of it."
Although he admits it is tough to survive with a restaurant in this town, Thomas also is finding it difficult to walk away from a business that is in his blood. The change is an opportunity for him to reflect on his faithful breakfast-and-lunch crowd.
"It's been such a ball," he said. "I've met some of the finest people I've ever met in that restaurant. I've watched kids grow up there over the years."
Whatever he decides to do, Thomas says he most likely won't open anything until October. His die-hard regulars will have to temporarily get their water-boiled New York-style bagels elsewhere.
"I didn't realize we were that highly regarded. It's tugging at my heart strings a little bit," Thomas said.
The former Ric's Cafe property at 694 Ninth St. N. will become the new home of Dairy Queen, which will relocate from its longtime location about three blocks south. The question, of course, is what will become of Dairy Queen's classic red A-frame that has been a Naples fixture since at least the mid-1950s?
Unfortunately, additional details about the local DQ move are not ready to be revealed, said Michael Marciano Sr., who has owned the local franchise with his wife Karen for 13 years. Information will be released "when the time is right" within the next couple of weeks, Marciano said.
Efforts to contact property owners George and Marion Barbour about the future of the A-frame structure at 410 Ninth St. N. were unsuccessful by presstime. Look for updates soon regarding the future of the landmark as well as about the new locations for Dairy Queen and Ric's Cafe.
The Island Pub
Q: I just heard that the Island Pub is closing May 1. Do you know if the Old Naples Pub also is closing (same owner)? We have been going there for decades and really feel home there. Thanks.
— Mary Dorsey, Naples
A: Although the last day of business will be April 28 for The Island Pub in Park Shore Resort, the poolside restaurant's two local sister pubs — Old Naples Pub off Third Street South and The Village Pub in the Village on Venetian Bay — will remain open, said Tim Flock, who co-owns and operates the longtime local pubs under the figmented name Arnt U. Gladufoundus with Kent Schooley, Steve Briggs and Don Flock.
"We are just booming with the other two places," Flock said. “Our company has operated multiple pub locations in Naples for over 21 years and we plan to be a unique part of the local restaurant scene for many years to come. We will continue to provide excellent food, service and entertainment at the Old Naples Pub and The Village Pub and work to make sure that all of our guests leave delighted.”
Meanwhile, Flock said the restaurant team is keeping open the Island Pub while trying to help find new jobs for its staff.
“Closing one of our pubs is very difficult and emotional for us, mostly because we must say goodbye and sever our working relationship with our faithful, hardworking staff members," Flock said. "Many have become our friends who we’ve spent long hours working beside. This closing comes at a difficult time, during an uncertain economy."
The restaurant, formerly the Island Club, has been a local tradition for 30 years. The name was changed to the Island Pub when the current owners purchased the business in 2005. The business, located at 600 Neapolitan Way, is listed for sale, according to a news release from the Island Pub, also known as Arnt's Island Hideaway.
“We would like to thank all of our patrons who appreciated and supported us over the years. We feel that we have brought the sleepy Island back to life with not only great food, friendly service, successful live entertainment and great energy, but with heart, in an excellent ambience, that offers a unique and affordable “old Florida” style dining," co-owner Kent Schooley is quoted in a news release. "Regretfully, our vision of what The Island Pub should be is simply too big for the Park Shore resort complex. In order to remain successful we must continue to grow The Island Pub, but we feel we can grow no further here. When the efforts of operating a restaurant exceed the rewards of ownership it’s time for a change. We have, therefore, decided to focus all of our time and energy into our sister pubs, The Village Pub and the Old Naples Pub which we have owned and operated since 1990.”
The Park Shore Resort's 2,500 square-foot restaurant and pool are actually on an island in the middle of the condominium resort. The tropical oasis tucked away behind Park Shore Plaza is reachable only by bridges.
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"In the Know" is published Mondays and Wednesdays in the Naples Daily News. Find a complete archive of "In the Know" columns at naplesnews.com/intheknow.