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Business Observer Thursday, Jun. 11, 2020 1 year ago

Never give up, never surrender

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Marc Devisee, despite opening a new restaurant during the pandemic, refuses to call it quits.

Marc Devisee, owner of a Southwest Florida interior remodeling and construction firm, spent several years thinking about how he could diversify his business — in case of a downturn.

Instead of sticking to construction, where his firm, Naples-based Tri-Town Construction, does some $8 million a year in revenue, Devisee followed another dream: He set about opening a restaurant, under the brand Seaside, a moniker and vibe he long thought was a good a fit for the region. And despite having no restaurant ownership experience, Fifth Third Bank, through the SBA, gave Devisee a six-figure loan. With those funds and savings, Devisee invested eight months and $1 million into opening Seaside Bar & Grill in Bonita Springs. “I put every penny I had into this,” he tells Coffee Talk.

Devisee’s investment, and restaurant dreams, ran straight into a roadblock for the ages: the coronavirus pandemic. Seaside’s opening day, it turns out, was March 17 — the same day Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order that shut down restaurants. Although Devisee lamented his timing, a friend, he says, told him “every takeout order you sell is one more sale that stops the bleeding.”

Devisee shifted to takeout and curbside pickup, with a menu focusing on tavern-style staples that befits a place with seaside in the name, including a mahi-mahi sandwich, seared Ahi tuna, fish tacos, wraps and burgers. Devisee says Seaside had been gaining traction in the community — “We want to be nice a place where people come and hang out,” he says — the last two weeks of May. Then the national George Floyd protests and riots curbed any momentum. “Things were starting to get better,” he tells Coffee Talk. “Then the protests hit, and the restaurant was dead.”

A Business Observer 40 under 40 winner in 2017 for his efforts with Tri-Town, Devisee says he’s not the giving up type. “You can’t just sit and pout that the cards weren’t dealt perfectly,” Devisee says. “This is just another obstacle to overcome.”

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