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The Marina Restaurant, 101 Centre Street (Fernandina Beach): 24 April 2022   no comments

Posted at 10:51 pm in closing































Well, this one hits harder than most. Although I see from the news reporting that The Marina had "only" been there 54 years, I felt like it had been there my entire life, and it was a welcome constant at the head of a changing Centre Street. I ate there with my parents, aunts, uncles and other relatives, now most of them gone, and with my sister introduced my nieces to the place (they had a "treasure box" behind the counter where kids could pick a prize if they cleaned their plates). Throughout all those years, the decor of the place was almost unchanged, with a nautical touch appropriate to the almost waterfront location. Christmas was a bit different, as the Santa Claus figures came out, and other holiday touches brightened the place.

On weekdays, The Marina was basically a Southern meat-and-three, with very good vegetables, and for several years, an unusual "Puff Of The Day" feature. On weekends and in the evenings, it was more of a seafood restaurant though you could always get burgers or Southern specials of one sort of the other.

This article in the local paper (which is subscription only, but which will display the main picture) gives a few details on the closing, and a good bit on the history of the place:

Patricia Toundas sat surrounded by model lighthouses, wooden fishermen, pirates, turtles, restaurant equipment and a jar of preserved jumbo shrimp, things she has accumulated during the lifetime she has spent as the owner of the Marina Restaurant.

“Our customers were like family,” she said, embarrassed by the tears she wipes away. “We shared laughter and tears, and they always stayed with me. Loyalty means everything.”

After 54 years, Patricia Toundas recently made the difficult decision to sell the Marina, a local landmark located in the heart of Fernandina Beach at the corner of Centre and Front streets.

Patricia Toundas’ parents, Michael and Alice Toundas, bought her, along with her brother, Bill Toundas, and sister, Michelle Toundas, to the restaurant as children, and Michael Toundas would say that one day he would own it. And he did, taking over in the mid-1960s. The siblings both moved away and when her parents became too ill to run the restaurant, Patricia Toundas took over managing it and eventually bought it.

In the end, it was the recent staffing crisis (and probably, I'm inferring, approaching retirement) that led to the closing:

She has employees who have been at the Marina almost as long as she has, and she credits her staff and her customers, along with her faith, with the success she has had. She stopped in front of the restaurant door each morning and offered up a prayer before opening to serve the community, said her manager of more than 40 years, Patty Paulk. The decision to sell the business was not an easy one.

She said she contacted a real-estate agent last year, but put the contract in her car, unable to bring herself to follow through. But, finding reliable staff was, in the end, the issue that helped her make the decision to sell the business.

“I have always tried to give good service, have good food and an atmosphere of family,” she said. “But, it just has gotten to the point where even if you have a good product, you were going to have to wait too long.

“My era is over. I am tired.”

The story goes on to include this ominous note:

The new owners have not given any details of their plans for the building, only that it will be “something Fernandina has never seen before.”

I have taken many pictures inside the restaurant over the years, and I will post them here as I find them. In the meantime, I'll just have to remember walking in hot & sweaty, setting my hat on a chair, and having a cold glass of that unique Fernandina-Water ice tea while working on my field-peas & rice with cornbread.

Written by ted on June 6th, 2022

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