Timbers Restaurant and Fish Market is celebrating 35 years on Sanibel Island in October.
Owner and Executive "Fishmonger" Matt Asen said the restaurant is hosting a anniversary celebration on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 4 p.m. Guests will be Timbers "alumni" and regular customers since it opened in 1978.
The celebration will feature all of the Timbers seafood specialities from the oyster bar to sashimi. Tickets are $35 per couple, including complimentary cocktail and food, and the proceeds benefit F.I.S.H. of Sanibel.
"We are inviting anybody on the island who has been able to help us celebrate 35 years," said Asen, adding that he expects to see a lot of old friends.
Guests are encouraged to bring old Timbers photographs and memorabilia, and be ready to tell old stories about the restaurant or staff. Some customers, such as 96-year-old Stanley Beck, were eating at the restaurant when it first opened.
The original restaurant, named after the wooden beams and ceiling at its first location on Rabbit Road, was opened by Jim Keiser of Naples, Fla., and Jim and Kipp Foster of New York. Asen, also of New York, was first hired as general manager.
When it opened, Asen saw that the demand for fish was high so he began driving his Toyota hatchback to the docks on Fort Myers Beach. He started buying whole fish off the boats and learning techniques from the "old salts" on how to prepare them with sharp knives.
Stories began to spread about Asen dropping twenty-five pound groupers on customer's tables to prove freshness, and filleting a 100-pound swordfish in the Bailey's parking lot. He insists they're all true, and shortly after he developed the phrase: "We serve it fresh...or we don't serve it at all."
The restaurant later expanded into Timbers Restaurant and Fish Market, and in 1990 moved to its current 12,000-square-foot location at 703 Tarpon Bay Road, opening with The Sanibel Grill next door.
For the month of October, Timbers is offering dinner specials and every 35th customer will receive a $35 gift certificate to be used at any of the restaurants in The Pawnbroker Restaurant Group Family, a partnership formed in 1982 that resulted in the opening of restaurants across Southwest Florida and the east coast.
From Oct. 27-30 the restaurant is also offering original menu items at 1978 prices, including prime ribs and grilled salmons, to celebrate their anniversary.
Asen said Timbers will continue serving customers as "Sanibel's Seafood Specialist." In fact, the restaurant is the oldest on the island under the same management, he added.
"We're going to be here 35 years from now, I'll guarantee that," he said. "There's been 35 years of fresh fish, 245 in dog years, and millions of years in restaurant years, because the restaurant business is pretty tough."
For more information, visit www.prawnbroker.com.