Communication Builds Our Community

City Grant Helps Attract Downtown Seafood Restaurant

A City of Lake Wales incentive program to draw new restaurants to downtown has reeled in its first big catch.

Melanie's Seafood Co. is scheduled to open in January at 120 Park Ave., thanks in part to $50,000 in grant funds from the city's Community Redevelopment Agency.

The 35-seat eatery will be open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the site of the former Pedro's Downtown Deli, and will be owned and operated by Steve and Melanie Manwell, a couple who spent 17 years in a partnership at Crazy Fish Bar & Grill, one of the city's most popular restaurants.

"They are wonderful candidates for this exact program," CRA Assistant Director Karen Thompson said. "They're doing everything right, in the way of redevelopment. They are doing what this was put before them to do, which is to redevelop the property while raising the value of that property at the same time for years to come."

The CRA developed the incentive program a couple of years ago after an economic analysis of the downtown and northwest redevelopment area showed an unmet consumer demand for specialty foods. The grant money can be used for things like electrical upgrades, fire suppression systems and other potential costly renovations, which all must stay in place for a minimum of five years.

"As owner/operators, my wife Allison and I handle all the daily activities associated with our restaurant. We have over 60 years combined experience that enables us to grow this restaurant into something the community will love," they noted in their grant application. "As a lifetime 'kitchen guy,' and my wife as a lifetime customer service expert, we can offer something to the downtown community that they have been searching for many years now."

They added that the growth and success of Crazy Fish will be something they can build on.

"Our previous restaurant proved to be extremely successful as a result of our partnership's attention to the details of daily operations," they added. "We are a hometown restaurant because this is our hometown, which also gives us the advantage of many skilled and talented previous employees that are eager to come back with us to fulfill the needs of the Lake Wales area."

CRA Chairman Robin Gibson said he hopes this will be the start of other restaurants locating in the city's redevelopment areas.

"One thing you see in downtowns that are successful, is that restaurants are the unique thing. Because in the big strip center or the major highways you can't have congregating areas like you can downtown, sitting and enjoying it. And you have to have a collection of them. Actually, other restaurants are going to be your friends because they enhance the draw. And that's what this whole program is about. We're not recruiting competitors, we're recruiting partners to bring more people to the historic downtown."


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