In 1986, MIKE PACHOTA and his high school friend, Greg Novack, won the bid from the city of Venice to convert the old beach concession at the foot of the Venice fishing pier into a restaurant. They opened Sharky’s on the Pier in early 1987 with 80 seats. Sharky’s has grown into one of the region’s most popular beach restaurants, with 300 seats and record reported gross revenues of $8.86 million in 2012. A $5-million expansion is expected to be completed in mid-December.
Tell us about your expansion. “It’s a separate, 180-seat restaurant just north of the original Sharky’s. I call it ‘polished casual’ or ‘beach formal.’ We’ll have sushi and fresh farm-to-plate items served in an interesting way. We’re going to name it Fins at Sharky’s.”
How many new employees will you hire? “We’re bringing 20 people over from Sharky’s—right now we have about 120 people working there—and will add a full 40 people on top of that.”
How was your summer business? “July developed into our fourth-busiest month. Venice has gotten a lot of positive publicity, and there are several large residential developments being built in the area that contribute.”
The restaurant business is notoriously grueling. How do you balance work-life? “As we’ve gotten larger, the day-to-day grind is not nearly as grueling for me. On the flip side, I have much more to worry about; I have 10 managers to oversee and more people to supervise.”
You won an award last year from the Association of Fund Raising Professionals for your charitable work. “We like to invest in causes that make a difference, and having our employees have an investment in the effort brings them a sense of pride. We’ve been a sponsor of Habitat of South Sarasota County for 10 years, and our employees have helped build four houses. We also support Children First, Our Mother’s House and the South County Y.”
Do you like to cook? “My wife’s the gourmet cook. I’m more the businessperson than I am the chef or server.”
Your proudest achievement? “Staying the course. It’s not any one little thing, it’s the whole enchilada: the customers, the families who work here.”