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Another iconic landmark and one of the best hangouts, with live music and great food on the beach, is the Colucci family’s Andrea Seaside Restaurant and Beach Bar, originally the Andrea Hotel. The 100-year-old hotel had 26 rooms and was open part-time year round hosting weddings and holiday celebrations. The hotel building was severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. It would have been very expensive to rebuild the old building so the family made the painful decision to demolish it and reinvent the hotel into the restaurant and bar it is today. They did save the old stone fireplace, which had so many family memories, and moved it to the patio. You can sit in front of the fire and watch the sunset over the ocean. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Rebecca Colucci spoke about her family’s history: “The Andrea first opened in 1912. It was originally two houses that were combined into one building and made into a bed and breakfast. My great grandfather, Leonard, bought the Andrea with his two sisters in 1944 after the ‘38 hurricane, and my grandfather Ralf ran it.”
After her grandfather passed away her father, Lenny, bought out his brothers and ran the business along with Rebecca and her sister Michelle.
The Colucci family found out after Sandy just how much support they had from the local community.
“It was so touching to see the large number of people who volunteered to help us, sometimes 30 a day would show up to help us dig out. Some were past employees who worked here when I was a child, it was great,” said Rebecca. “The tent we put up was a temporary fix to keep some revenue coming in while we rebuilt. We spent a lot of money on architectural plans and we have a whole beautiful hotel on paper but when we sent it out to bid it was a $10 million project. Then the business we started doing with the temporary structure was more than we ever did with the old hotel and we thought let’s rethink this.”
The two sisters continue to run the business today out of the makeshift building.
One person who had a lot to do with what Misquamicut is today is John Vacca, better known as Johnny Beachcomber. He came to Misquamicut in 1947, right after WWII, and opened a little snack bar. His specialty was the Misquamicut pepper burger and people would come from all over to get Johnny Beachcomber’s pepper burger. Because people started leaving the keys to their cottages with him so often he thought he should go into the real estate business, so Beachcomber Real Estate Agency was born. The company is now owned by his daughter, Michelle Vacca, who also happens to be the Misquamicut Fire District Moderator.
“We’ve been selling, renting, and managing real estate in Misquamicut for 73 years and helping families find the perfect beach property,” said Michelle. “My parents were married in 1954 and I was born that August. Two weeks after I was born Hurricane Carol came in and wiped out the whole beach. My father had a new wife, a new baby, and no business. Everything was gone and he had to rebuild. My father, Gerard Nardone, and Stanton Terranova Sr. got together and came up with the idea to buy property for a Misquamicut Fire District beach and that’s how the MFD got their beaches. My father was very protective of those beaches. Because of all he’d done for the Town of Westerly the town made him Beach Commissioner of Westerly. They renewed his appointment every year because of who he was. Funny thing is my father couldn’t swim and never went in the water but he loved the beach.”
Sadly the Misquamicut community recently lost Stanton Terranova Sr. who worked with John Vacca to acquire the land for the MFD beaches. Stanton was an electrician by trade but also a skilled businessman. He opened Stanton Realty in 1959 and commissioned his two sisters, Lois and Jane, and brother-in-law Laverne, to work alongside him during the formative years making Stanton Realty a true family enterprise. His entrepreneurship extended into other ventures and one of them was The Pleasant View Inn. From 1965 to 2013 he owned and operated the 112 room oceanfront resort further securing Misquamicut Beach as a summer destination.
The Fiore family owns and operates three businesses at the beach, Alfie’s Surf Shop, Alfie’s Beach Store, and the concession stand Little Mermaid’s. Erika Fiore is the third generation in the family business.
“I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t working in the store. My mom said she taught me to give back change to the customers when I was three.”
Gary Fiore talked about the family business history: “The business was started by Salvatore Fiore, my grandfather, after he migrated from Italy. If you lived in Misquamicut in the 1930s you’d see a bright red 1937 Diamond T truck that he delivered fruits and vegetables with. I still have the old truck.”
Gary looked through a pile of old photographs as he described how the original store started.
“My father, Arthur Fiore, bought some property on Atlantic Avenue and started Fiore’s Market in 1946. His brother, Thomas Bates Fiore, had a market right on the corner across from the carousel in Watch Hill. They would go to Providence, buy the fruit, and load the trucks up every day. My mother worked at the store and my father went on the road. The store got completely leveled by Hurricane Carol in 1954 and they rebuilt it. The market slowly evolved into more of a retail store selling grinders, ice, postcards, and beach supplies. They had fruit and vegetables out in front. I took the business over in the 1980s when my parents retired.”
Today, Alfie’s Surf Shop sells men’s, women’s, and children’s apparel including bathing suits, Reef sandals, and beach supplies from sunscreen to surf boards. Alfie’s Beach Store carries a large variety of souvenirs, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and almost anything else you would ever need at the beach.
You will find the Winnapaug Inn and the Venice Restaurant located together on Winnapaug Pond beside the Winnapaug Golf Course. Antonio and Anna DiMarco came here in the late 1960s from Italy and opened the Inn in 1988. The inn was enlarged in 1997 and they opened the Venice Restaurant next to the inn in 2000.
“It was planned as a smaller restaurant,” said Nunzio Demarco, who’s run the restaurant for the last 20 years. “Then we thought we needed two ballrooms so it went from a one-floor building to a three-floor building. We do a lot of events, corporate functions, rehearsal dinners, baby showers, wedding showers, and weddings.”
“A lot of the recipes are my mother’s, like our Bolognese sauce and our marinara sauce. My mother loves to cook and we still carry on that tradition. We have a lot of local customers that have been coming to the restaurant for generations so it’s a real family atmosphere. I grew up in the restaurant business doing a little bit of everything. I actually have an engineering degree from URI but I didn’t pursue engineering as a career. I went into the hospitality industry here in the family business and 20 years later I’m still at it.”
Just steps from Misquamicut Beach situated on five beautiful acres is The Breezeway Resort, a family owned business, that is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Today, it is managed by John Bellone whose parents, Nicola and Maria Bellone, both emigrated from Italy. They ended up in Misquamicut because Maria loved the ocean. Nicola worked as a mason.
“He was driving to work one day when he saw the for sale sign on the Breezeway Motel and he went to see his friend, Stanton Terranova Sr., who had listed the property,” said John. “Stanton said to my father, ‘I’m not going to do anything until you go ask your wife. You get her permission first.’ My father asked my mother and I guess it was fine because here we are 50 years later.” In 1970, John was just nine months old when the Bellone family moved into a cottage on the property. Originally the Breezeway had 12 motel rooms but over the years the resort has expanded in size and now has 50 rooms.
In 1994 John’s mother, Maria, was walking to the beach when she saw that Dino’s Seafood House was for sale. The Bellone family bought the property, they renovated the restaurant and it became the highly regarded Maria’s Seaside Café. Maria’s Seaside Cafe has the feeling of a bustling Italian trattoria. You can choose from house made ravioli or one of Chef Rafael’s nightly seafood specials.
The Bellone family had been thinking about building a hotel, but was in no hurry, until hurricane Sandy came along. “There was five feet of sand inside the building and the whole restaurant was destroyed,” said John. “It seemed like a good opportunity to build a new restaurant and hotel. I named the new hotel, The Hotel Maria, in honor of my mother, Maria Bellone, who passed away in 2014.”
This summer the beach will again be hosting visitors for another fun filled season. There will be other challenges ahead for the family businesses at the beach in the years ahead but these people have proven they’re resilient and will continue to thrive. It’s been over 100 years since Court and Trudy built their cottage on the beach. Since then Misquamicut has developed into a vibrant residential and resort community. If Trudy could see Misquamicut today I’m sure she’d say “What a pleasant view.”