BRADENTON -- The old home of Bradenton's most famous manatee and one of Tropicana's first shipment destinations received a two-week makeover and reopened on Sept. 15.
Pier 22, a long-standing downtown restaurant on the riverfront, launched its interior renovation on Aug. 30. General manager and executive chef Greg Campbell said his staff's work ethic through the two weeks is the "No. 1 reason" they were able to reopen on time.
"We had eight or nine catering jobs during the renovation," Campbell said. "And we fed the construction crew breakfast, lunch and dinner." The entire renovation, originally budgeted for $450,000, ended up costing between $500,000 and $700,000. Before it began on Aug. 30, Campbell and building owner Hugh Miller spent about six months planning the project.
There's hardly a part of Pier 22 not touched by the renovation. New tile and handrails on the front exterior, new indoor flooring, an upgraded air conditioning system and a different lighting scheme are just a few of the improvements made on the 90-year-old building.
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But Campbell, who has been in the restaurant business since his teenage years, is most excited about the overhaul of the kitchen.
"I've been dreaming about the changes to this kitchen for nine years," Campbell said. He started as the general manager and executive chef just over nine years ago and knew then that the kitchen would need more work if the restaurant's business grew.
"The kitchen is small for the amount of volume and
catering we do," he said. Additions to the kitchen such as a pot rack hung from the ceiling help the staff do their jobs more efficiently than before in the small space. He's already seen a change in staff attitudes, as well.
"The whole vibe of the place has kind of come alive," Campbell said. "We're happy to go into season."
Campbell's sous chef, Juan Sarmiento, said the remodeled kitchen makes everyone's job easier.
"It's way different than before," Sarmiento said. "It's like you got a new car." Pier 22 bakes all of its breads, desserts and buns for sandwiches in-house. The remodel includes new kitchen accessories such as stainless steel bun molds and a rack for them.
When staff wasn't preparing meals for the crews during the two-week closure, they were in service training. The restaurant's 120-person workforce learned about wine, toured local breweries and spent time with a customer service professional to elevate their knowledge and improve guest experiences at Pier 22.
Campbell said he and Miller tried to keep the renovation as locally sourced as possible. Manasota Flooring completed all of the flooring work, Tampa Bay-based Artistic Metal worx installed the new outdoor handrails and Fox Restaurant Equipment & Supply in Sarasota provided the necessities for the kitchen makeover. The entire interior was designed by Palmetto-based Moore2 Design, LLC.
The parking lot also will receive a facelift in coming weeks, though the restaurant will not close for that part of the remodel. A fresh coat of asphalt will be laid overnight, Campbell said.
The restaurant's food didn't bypass the changes, either. The Pier 22 menu has undergone small alterations so far and Campbell hopes to change it more within the next few months.
Pier 22's improvements aren't just for Campbell and his staff. He believes the building is a "real, living breathing thing" and it was hungry for a new look.
"The building needed this renovation," he said. "There's a massively rich history here. The building is very happy right now."
Campbell arrived in the Bradenton-Sarasota area 13 years ago with his wife, Colleen, and his daughter, Morgan. He loves the community and "won't ever leave." He hopes the Pier 22 renovations will bring new life to downtown Bradenton.
"We're investing in the Bradenton community," he said. "We wanted to make sure we were with or ahead of the game."
Janelle O'Dea, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095 or follow her on Twitter @jayohday.