Marco Island locals headed to The Esplanade recently to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of CJ’s on the Bay. The festivities, which began under clear skies, included door prizes, raffles, corn hole, an all-day happy hour, birthday bash drink specials, entertainment by Jeff Hilt and Jenny Woodman, and a complimentary picnic buffet.
For some, the day was nostalgic. Conversations around the party included: the many changes of Marco Island over the years, upcoming elections, and thoughts regarding the island’s future.
“I started working in this location as the executive chef when it was Bay View. Then one day, I was called into the office and was introduced to the new owners, Curt and Jacquie Koon. So, I have been with CJ’s from the beginning, and I was impressed (and relieved) that Curt and Jacquie immediately wanted to be involved in the community. They dove right in and that really made me feel good, especially since I’ve been here so long, it’s good to see it,” said CJ’s General Manager and former executive chef, Laura Owen.
“To this day, our local community remains an important focus. At our five-year party, we donated $1,000 to the Marco Island branch of the American Cancer Society. With the environment being in the forefront, it seemed natural to partner with the Friends of Rookery Bay for our 10-year celebration,” Owen added.
CJ’s on the Bay is generously donating proceeds from the celebration to Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Rookery Bay Executive Director Athan Barkoukis, who was in attendance, stated: “On behalf of the Friends of Rookery Bay, we want to extend our sincere gratitude to CJ’s on the Bay for supporting us and the local community with all the proceeds of the 10th Anniversary celebration being donated to the Friends of Rookery Bay. The proceeds will be reinvested in your backyard into the Rookery Bay Research Reserve.”
Nearly at the halfway point of the celebration, Mother Nature made a quick change of appearance, first with a thunder clap, then a light misting which quickly turned to a full-on downpour; however, these Southwest Florida revelers were unphased and continued the party, packing the outside gazebo and inside the restaurant as volunteers and employees busily relocated the enviable raffle and door prizes.
“I’m just here to support CJ’s being a part of Marco Island for 10 years. When I heard they were having a celebration, I knew I had to attend,” said 90-year-old former Marco resident, Roy Birkeland, who now resides in Michigan.
Nearing the end of the official festivities, the sun made another appearance revealing the gorgeous view of Smokehouse Bay, reminding everyone of yet another reason CJ’s on the Bay will always remain a favorite island hangout.
“It’s been a really good day. People, as always, have proven to be so generous. We’ve been 10 years here on Marco Island. It’s a win, win. The community supports us, and we support the community. We are very thankful for everything and hope to see another ten years,” remarked Jacquie Koon, CJ’s on the Bay owner.