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Popular Rosie’s to reopen in Hungry Heron space

By Staff | Aug 10, 2012

JIM LINETTE Irving Gavin moves a cafe table from Rosie's Deli & Market outside the Hungry Heron Eatery in Palm Ridge Place where he and partner Joanne Fitzgerald plan to open Rosie's Cafe & Grill in October.

Rosie’s by any other name smells just as sweet for the many dedicated patrons anxious to pick up where they left off a year ago.

Rosie’s Deli & Market on the east end of Sanibel Island closed abruptly at the end of April 2011, leaving customers hitting the social media sites trying to find out what happened.

Their quest to become reacquainted with each other and their favorite menu items is coming to an end, soon, when the owners reopen in October as Rosie’s Cafe & Grill at 2330 Palm Ridge Road in the Palm Ridge Place. Joanne Fitzgerald of Naples and Irving Gavin of Sanibel recently purchased the Hungry Heron Eatery that occupied that location for 18 years, until it closed last month.

“It was an offer we couldn’t refuse,” said Gavin. “We’ve looked around at locations for the past year. Ran into a lot of roadblocks. Then, this just popped up out of nowhere.”

Gavin said Hungry Heron owner Andy Welsh “wanted out of the business and didn’t much care how, so we stepped in.”

JIM LINETTE Hungry Heron Eatery closed in July

Gavin and Fitzgerald bought all the equipment and the rights to the name and the menu and intend on opening the new business in mid-October after some remodeling work.

“We won’t keep the name, but the new Rosie’s will be a combination of Hungry Heron’s best items and our best items at Rosie’s,” said Gavin. “It will be a casual place with paintings on the wall to give you a feel of the beach.”

Rosie’s return to Sanibel is welcome news for the dedicated group of patrons known as the “Sanibel Think Tank” that met every morning at Rosie’s Deli for coffee and socializing.

“It’s a bunch of about 40 gentlemen who came to the front porch every morning,” said Gavin. “It became a contest about who would get there first. Some have already told us they will be here.”

Gavin affectionately says he has been in the restaurant business since he was 12 years old, washing dishes in 1978 at Duncan’s in Periwinkle Place.

“I’ve worked all across America,” said Gavin, son of Eugene, a descendant of the island’s well-known Gavin family that settled on the island in 1914. “I was in Denver at one point, but I’ve been back on Sanibel since 1996.”

Gavin and Fitzgerald met in real estate school and tried several business ventures before buying Rosie’s Deli in 2009. It operated successfully for three seasons before suddenly closing.

Fitzgerald owned and operated video stores for 20 years in Pennsylvania before migrating to Florida.

“I’m excited to get back,” said Fitzgerald. “We had an opportunity to open Rosie’s off the island, but it has a lot of history and Hungry Heron has a lot of history on the island. Lot of memories with the people here and you get to meet people from all over the world.”

Gavin has been busy overseeing the remodeling of the new location.

“We will have a carryout area for sandwiches and such or people can dine in (82 seats),” said Gavin. “I want to add some outside seating and have a few tables with umbrellas. We will be open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”

The menu will offer seafood, burgers, oysters, clams, steak and Gavin’s signature Philly cheesesteak as well as eggs and such for breakfast, and fresh baked breads at lunchtime.

“The east end was always busy in season, but year round I think this (location) will be better,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s pretty central, I guess we’ll find out.”