SEBASTIAN — A trio of longtime friends and Sebastian residents have purchased Suzy's Tiki Bar on Indian River Drive and plan to expand on the cozy, backyard atmosphere already going.
Chris Pinson, John Campbell and Dawn Biehl closed on the property earlier this month and are the nuts and clam of their operation - Two Nuts and Clam Inc.
The trio purchased the property from owners Suzy and Mel Strahosky, who held the property since early 2010.
"They're enjoying life," Pinson said of the Strahoskys.
Pinson said he and his colleagues had been keeping an eye on the tiki in case it went back on the market.
Campbell said that when it first went up for sale - when the Stahoskys bought it - the three weren't quite ready to buy. In the meantime, he said, they had looked at other options and possibilities, but "none really struck a chord."
Biehl added that the three had been looking for some time on a project to collaborate.
"Doesn't everyone want to make money?" she asked, adding what better place to do that than with a business that's fun and sociable. "You can't go wrong with waterfront property."
As for the friendship, the owners said they have safe-guarded themselves against disputes and conflicts in mixing friendship with business.
"There's a time for business and a time for pleasure," Biehl said, adding they have the same goals and want what's best for the business and their families.
Pinson added that each of them brings something different to the table and that they trust each other to do what's right.
Campbell said it's their friendship that cultivated the level of trust needed to enter into the partnership.
And, if all else fails, they'll take the disputed issue to a vote - and majority wins.
For the time being, while Two Nuts and Clam gets its feet underneath it, no sweeping changes are planned for the tiki bar or its staff.
"We were really impressed with the staff," Campbell said, adding that when they first purchased the property, they weren't sure what type of reception they'd get. "These people are fabulous."
The customers, too, have been supportive of the change in ownership.
"All three are very nice," said Norma Eblin, who regularly visits the tiki with her husband, Earl, driving to Sebastian from Barefoot Bay five times a week to sit along the water and sip a beer.
The Eblins said they are looking forward to the new owners opening the kitchen and offering a menu - something the Stahoskys had originally planned to do but didn't implement.
"It's going to be way better," Earl Eblin said of the tiki.
Biehl said she expects to have the kitchen up and running by October, if not sooner, providing a simple menu with a few signature dishes.
"Nothing too complicated," she said of the menu, adding that the menu hasn't been set at this time but they fully expect to have some seafood offerings.
Pinson, Campbell and Biehl had visited the tiki bar before buying the property but don't consider themselves regulars.
They said they know people will come to the bar and stay longer if there is food to help keep them there.
They also plan to renovate the restroom facilities "ASAP," Pinson said.
Down the road, they plan to better protect the bar and its patrons from inclement weather.
"Rain is a big issue for us," Pinson said.
They'd also like to have a bandstand for more quality entertainment.
Whether the modifications will include a new name for the tiki bar remains to be seen.
"The jury's still out," Pinson said, adding they are seeking input from their customers about what to do with the name.
"This place found its identity as ‘Suzy's Tiki,'" Pinson said. "We might want our own identity. But I'm sure around town it'll always be known as the tiki bar."
Once the new owners open the kitchen and make immediate improvements to the property, the next step will be to determine how best to use their space, which includes a parking lot along the water along with a narrow lot between Indian River Drive and US 1.
"We've got a lot of options," Campbell said. "It's going to come down to what the city will allow."
He said they need to improve parking and would like to move the parking off the river and, instead, have parking on the property across the street.
"That just seems like such a waste," he said of eating up valuable river frontage with cars. "It's a horrible use of real estate."
Some requests they have heard from customers include adding horseshoe pits and a volleyball net, Campbell said, explaining that the tiki has become more than just a place to sit back and enjoy a beer or glass of wine.
"This is where the locals stay and the visitors come to play," he said.