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The Timbers celebrates 40 years of food, service on-island

By Staff | Nov 7, 2018

ELIZABETH CALDWELL Matt Asen, center, with guests.

The Timbers Restaurant and Fish Market recently marked its 40th anniversary on the islands.

On Oct. 26, an anniversary celebration was held at the Sanibel eatery, featuring food, live music and fun. Owner Matt Asen explained that it also served as a fundraiser for F.I.S.H. of Sanibel-Captiva.

“Some of our employees this summer, who took a beating,” he said, referencing the water quality issues that impacted businesses. “They helped some of our employees out with rent and mortgages.”

Attendees paid $40 per couple or $20 per person for a spread, from sushi to beef Wellington.

“All the food that anyone would want to eat,” Asen said.

The price also included two cocktails.

“It was great seeing all the different people who we haven’t see in awhile,” he said.

The restaurant donated half of the proceeds to F.I.S.H., which totaled approximately $1,900.

The original eatery was a 150-seat steakhouse that opened in 1978 at 975 Rabbit Road. Named for the wooden beans and ceiling, The Timbers was a joint venture for Jim Keiser, of Naples, and brothers Jim and Kipp Foster, of Pittsford, New York. Asen, 25, also of New York, was hired as a general manager.

The partners decided the menu would feature mostly steaks and shrimp, with red snapper being the only fish item. However, Asen soon realized that customers wanted fish, and they wanted it fresh. According to the website, he would drive to the Fort Myers Beach docks and buy fish off the boats.

ELIZABETH CALDWELL Guests enjoyed a buffet spread.

With so many customer requests to buy fish, Asen convinced the owners to let him use the former waiting room as a fish market in 1981. Using a second-hand delicatessen case, he worked the counter selling fish, shellfish and steaks. The name was changed to The Timbers Restaurant & Fish Market.

In 1988, after negotiations stalled to extend the restaurant’s lease, the partners began searching for a location for a new building. In 1990, a vacant lot on Tarpon Bay Road was purchased and construction began on a 12,000-square-foot building. The new eatery opened in 1991, alongside The Sanibel Grill.

Asen attributed the restaurant’s long-standing success to its food and employees.

“We’ve always been consistent – good, simple, straight-forward food,” he said. “And we have a great staff – customers like to come back, it’s like coming home.”

“It’s a combination of the good food, but mostly the people working there,” Asen added.

ELIZABETH CALDWELL Cathy Popoff and Pat Norton at the ticket table.

For more information, call 239-395-2722 or visit online at timbersofsanibel.com.

The Timbers Restaurant and Fish Market is at 703 Tarpon Bay Road.

ELIZABETH CALDWELL Skylar McCarriston dances to the music of Jeff and Wendy Key.