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Gulf & Main Magazine

The Prawnbroker Celebrates 38th Anniversary Throughout the Month of November

Nov 06, 2020 05:00PM ● By Kevin

Now celebrating 38 years of fresh fish, The Prawnbroker Restaurant & Fish Market - 1345116 McGregor Blvd, Fort Myers, FL is offering select entrees at two for $38 ($19 each) in celebration of the anniversary all month long in November. Additionally, every 38th customer receives a $38 gift certificate to be used after the promotion ends.

We caught up with vice president of marketing and operations Mark Blust about the location, popular menu items, the anniversary event, and how the restaurant has coped in these uncertain times.

What was the main motivation for starting the business?

Prawnbroker Restaurant & Fish Market opened in 1982. The ownership group, which is originally from the northeast, was somewhat familiar with the area. They chose this area because the west coast of Florida was starting to grow a little bit. There weren’t a lot of chains yet. They chose a location that was surrounded by neighborhoods as opposed to being on mainstream roadways like US 41. Also at that time, there really weren’t a lot of dedicated seafood restaurants.

There’s a lot of emphasis put on fresh and local product. We’re one of the first sea-to-table restaurants in the area. We would go down to Dixie Fish Company where the commercial boats would dock back in the day. We’d wake up the sleeping fishermen, pick up our red grouper and snapper, and bring them back to the restaurant for the day. To a degree, we still do that. We work with a gentleman named Nick, who’s a fishmonger. He has a handful of boats that dock and we go down there and get our fish.

The ownership group consists of four partners. Two of them live on the east coast and they have four restaurants over there. Two of the partners live locally. They also have the Prawnbroker’s University Grill, and on Sanibel, they have the Timbers Restaurant and Fish Market and Matzaluna’s, which is an Italian Restaurant.

What's something you wish people knew about the business?

We’re very approachable. Not only for special occasions but for the quick bite after work or general socialization with friends. Because it was a polished, upscale casual restaurant, which there weren’t a lot of in the time, it got to a point that we had a reputation for special occasions. Our price point doesn’t indicate special occasions and it’s very approachable any day of the week on any occasion. It’s not just a place you bring your grandma to on her birthday.

Personally speaking, what is your favorite thing about the business?

The longevity of employees, the camaraderie amongst our staff, the ability of the restaurant to change with the times. The owners make a concerted effort every 10 years to do a facelift. Carpets, upholstery covers, decorations change. When they first opened up, there were teal and mauve seashells everywhere. Now we’re dark wood everywhere. They’ve done a good job over the years to look fresh and modern. It doesn’t have a dated feel to it.

What is a common question you get? Your answer to it?

'What came in today? Are the fish fresh? Where do you get your product from?' and, 'Oh, we didn’t know you were here. How long have you been here?' That plays into the location. We’re surrounded by residential, so not as much traffic going by.

What's the biggest compliment you've received about the business?

The longevity of the employees. People can come in and ask for a certain server. There’s a level of comfort to see the same faces all the time. That bodes well to the fact that we’ve stayed relevant over the years.

What is your most popular dish? And, personally, what is your favorite?

We’re famous for our crunchy grouper. It's a combination of corn flakes and cornmeal, deep-fried, but my favorite would be the grouper matanzas. That's a pan-seared filet finished off with crab meat and topped with a lemon butter sauce.

Are you involved with or do you support any local nonprofits, community organizations or causes?

We’re very active in PACE Center for Girls in Fort Myers. I’ve sat on the board and was a past chair. We yearly participate in the March of Dimes Chef’s Auction. We donate to a plethora of organizations. That’s one thing, restaurants get hit up quite often. We’re involved in pretty much every cause that there is out there. Helping out Golisano through donations and LARK are other ways we've helped out over the years.

Why did you choose Fort Myers? 

It was an up-and-coming area and starting to blossom. There was not a lot of presence in the food and beverage arena at the time. The owners were somewhat familiar with the area through friends and family. It wasn’t going to be as busy. It was going to be something a little more laid back. And they like to boat.

Do you have any upcoming events, specials, or new items/services that people should know about?

Starting Nov. 1 and continuing throughout the month of November, we will celebrate 38 years of the Prawnbroker being in Fort Myers. We’ll be running some discounted anniversary specials in celebration of that.

How has COVID-19 impacted your business? Have you rebounded? Did you do anything special given the circumstances?

We managed to stay open at that location. Like everyone else did, we went to a takeout and curbside model until it was able to open back up at partial capacity. We are still changing protocols, being able to handle to-go and curbside business better. We have seen business start to come back a little bit, but it’s still well off of what it should be. The last couple of weeks have been light. Typically we’ve seen an uptick in business at the end of October. With this year being an election year, it starts a little later, so we’re looking at the second week of November before we see that uptick.

Anything else you'd like to add?

We’re just following the CDC guidelines to the best of our ability. We’re still practicing social distancing in the restaurant. Employees wear masks, guests are encouraged to, but not required. Menus and condiments are wiped down after each party leaves. Whatever makes our guests feel the most comfortable. The fact that there’s still a lot of to-go business just tells you people still aren’t quite ready.