Seven Questions with the Captain: Bill Bowers
Bill Bowers has been the proprietor of the Captain’s Tavern since the iconic Pinecrest restaurant (and only place in the Village to buy fresh seafood) opened its doors 40 years ago.
1. How did you get your start in the restaurant business?
My dream was to be a professional athlete but the lord decided I should be a short man, not a tall man. When I went into the service, I volunteered to work in the kitchen at the officer’s club. After one night they asked me to work at the bar so I started working doing that and cooking in the kitchen. After the Korean War, I came to Miami in 1952 and worked at Thrifty Supermarket in Miami Beach for 10 years. After that, I had a few other jobs [but] I got tired of working for other people and decided I wanted to go into business for myself. I looked for a location and I couldn’t find anything until I found this location – a deserted post office at the time. I had no restaurant experience and the landlord didn’t think I had a chance and agreed to lease me the property with an option to buy after 10 years. The rest is history.
2. What are some of the changes you’ve seen Pinecrest go through since opening Captain’s Tavern?
I’ve seen Pinecrest go through many changes and all for the better. I love our library, the whole complex is beautiful. I like that we have our own police department and our own municipal government. Pinecrest is very strict on their building codes, which I think is most important. You don’t see rundown buildings, deserted cars or wrecks in people’s yards. I’ve seen everything improve since I’ve been here.
3. What’s your craziest memory from Captain’s Tavern?
I’m adamant about one rule with my staff: Every customer pays. One night I was cooking and they came to me and told me a man was sick in the dining room. I went out to see and he looked very sick. We called the paramedics and they came and said that the man was in bad shape and most likely [would die]. They were wheeling him through the dining room, they get him to the front door and one of the waitresses comes charging in. She bends over and slips the check under the sheet. Would you believe that? You’d have to see it to believe it. She thought nothing of it.
4. Where do you get your seafood from?
The majority of our seafood comes from South Florida. We have vendors in Fort Myers, Tampa and the Keys. We also buy fresh from Norway, England, Italy, Greece, New England and Alaska. We’ve made good relationships with several vendors; it’s one of the most important things in running a business.
5. What are some of the changes you’d like to see in Pinecrest?
Nothing really. Pinecrest has done very well and they’ve kept the taxes down for business owners!
6. What is the best thing about having a business in Pinecrest?
Pinecrest residents are very friendly people. We get a lot of repeat customers. On any given night we see 20 or more regulars eating here. Knowing that they can go eat anywhere else and they chose Captain’s Tavern tells me we’ve been doing something right.
7. What’s the secret to your success?
Behind every successful man there is a Jamaican woman. I’ve been married to Audrey for 32 years now and she is a godsend. She is a trained chef and we’ve done very well together. She loves to cook and she happens to be amazing at it; she is one of the main reasons for my success. Everything we offer at the restaurant we make from scratch – from our desserts, to our soups, and even our dressings.
Photo by Ed Nercess