In 1976, Steve Harner saw a newspaper ad for a 40-seat burger joint above a marina that was for lease on Tarpon Center Drive. “I drove down Venice Avenue to the beach to see it, called my then-wife and said, ‘This is the spot,’” he remembers. “We were young and naïve and thought we could get it done.” Get it done he did, purchasing the restaurant and expanding it to 175 seats in the early 1980s and, with two financial partners, buying the marina operation as well. Harner also has found time to serve on a number of civic boards, and he’s the new president of the Sarasota Manatee Originals restaurant group. “I believe in that,” he says, “[because] this industry has been very good to me.” —Ilene Denton

THAT’S THE SPIRIT

“I fell in love with the restaurant business in college in Michigan. When we opened the Crow’s Nest, I did not know one person, but people were so helpful and friendly. We’ve been very fortunate—we’ve been busy right from the start.”

AS TIME GOES BY

“There was more hotel space on the island in 1964 than there is today. What hasn’t changed is the hometown atmosphere. Venice has the weather, the beach, but what we have that most cities don’t is a charming downtown.”

CIVIC CHAMPIONS

“It’s a walkable city, a great city for biking, there’s the Waterway Trail. People take the time and effort to make the city better, both people who have lived here all their life, and people who’ve retired here and jumped right in.”

ON BOARD

“I’ve served on the City Council’s economic development committee, with the chamber of commerce, and on the YMCA board. I was on the hospital board when we sold it in 1995 to Bon Secours. The result of that sale was the $100 million-plus dollars that formed the Venice Foundation, and I was on the founding board of that and served as chair.”

ALL IN THE FAMILY

“In high school, my two daughters worked at the Crow’s Nest as servers and bussers. I cured them of the restaurant business. [But] my son-in-law is with us now; he’s one of our managers.”

AFTER HOURS

“I’ve been consumed with business, but I enjoy golfing and occasional boating. I’m not a big fisherman.”

HITTING THE ROAD

“Any business is trying, but this business is seven days a week. We have a great staff; some folks have been with us 25-plus years. [But] I’m winding out of it now. I’m 64 and this is a young person’s business. My wife, Sherry, and I bought an Airstream trailer a couple of years ago and went all the way to Seattle and camped with my daughter who lives out there. There’s a lot of country to see.” |||