There is a place off the beaten path on the way to Key West from Miami on US1; a hidden oasis that cannot be seen from the only road that leads you to within 90 miles of Cuba. Its a music venue, bar and restaurant called Dockside Tropical Cafe’. It may be a little hard to find but that’s what gives it so much charm. Dockside was re-opened in Nov of 2013 and is growing in popularity fast. It’s not your average story of a business man starting a restaurant. Quite the contrary actually. It is a tale of making dreams come true.
The new owner Eric Stone and his wife Kim Hess-Stone are motivated artists, each in their own realm. Eric is a successful independent singer/songwriter with 13 released Cds and Kim is a Yoga Instructor and author. The dynamic couple had an idea one day after Eric finished performing one night at the former Dockside before it went out of business from mismanagement and neglect. Eric told Kim it was sad to see how far down Dockside had fallen in recent years. (literally). It was sinking into the bay from improperly installed pilings from many years back. Just as Eric predicted, it did go out of business and sat empty for many months falling into more and more disrepair. The couple was saddened and motivated at the same time. Eric told Kim, semi-jokingly, that if they took the place over and fixed it up they could bring it back to life. Kim replied “Why don’t we then”? The problem was they had very little money as they had recently moved back from the Virgin Islands and had put most of their money into refitting the sailboat they lived on.
Eric had an idea. He had heard from his lead guitar player that one of his friends raised some money via Kickstarter, a crowd-funding site, to pay for the recording of a new CD he was releasing. Eric began researching crowd-funding. He had never even heard of it before that. After several months of intense research he decided to use Fundable.com, a crowd-funding site that allows reward based funding that can be transitioned into equity based funding. They soon would begin their campaign.
Shooting videos, writing stories and creating a buzz about their upcoming campaign was priority one. They also figured if it was meant to be, the community would tell them they were doing the right thing. Boy did they! On the 5th day of the campaign they hit $25,000.00. It was happening super fast and very inspiring. They raised over 68k though Fundable and private rewards via their website. Once equity investors got wind of their initial success, the dream became a reality.
They are both so grateful to the kick start they received from friends and fans who believed in them. Eric says, “If it wasn’t for them, Dockside may be sitting on the bottom of Boot Key Harbor by now, it was in real bad shape”.
The one thing they did once they began the renovation was to keep it’s charm. It has been known as “The Livingroom” to sailing cruisers since the 70’s. Boot Key is the kickoff point for the Caribbean and many a sailboater begins their crossing here. Dockside has been cleaned up and lifted out of it’s sinking misery to once again host live music and great food and drinks for locals and tourist alike.
It’s been less than a year since it’s rebirth and Eric and Kim and giving 100% to keeping it on the right path. Running a successful spot like this takes lots of capital and love invested. They still have plans for upgrades and eventually would like to add a brewery to Dockside. They are still open to investors via fundable.com or can be contacted directly.
If you would like to experience the real Keys and take in some great music, make sure to stop by on your way to or from Key West. It is Eric and Kims plan to be there for many years to come. On reason it has become so popular with traveling bands is that Eric treats musicians the way he wanted to be treated. As a performing singer/songwriter himself, Eric has played at more venues than he can remember. When he opened Dockside he didn’t want to be the kind of place that puts music in as an after thought. “I can’t tell you how many places I’ve played on the road that when I arrived and asked where is the stage?, the owner or manager would say, Oh we’ll just move some tables out of the way and you can play in the corner”. There was never adequate light or power to plug in amps. He would always have to bring his own PA and extension chords. Well, not at Dockside. Dockside boasts a state of the art sound system with a 16 channel iPad mixing board so the sound is perfect. Bose speakers ensure perfect volume throughout the house. Musicians love it. They bring their instruments and just plug in and are mixed by an in-house sound man. They are all treated like royalty here. They get a healthy bar tab for drinks and food and often Eric& Kim put groups up in their 41 foot sailboat “Ave de Paso” (Bird of Passage).
Eric says “It’s hard work but after 13 years of being on the road, it’s nice to have a home that both I and all my musician friends can perform in”. It is my home off of the road”.
To find out more about Dockside visit their website or just stop by and grab a Mojito or Pain Killer. You’ll be island inspired.