Dennis Passini and his then wife Laurie made their way south to Marco Island, along with Laurie’s parents, after the two couples purchased the Snook Inn from Charles and Delmar Kresse who were also from the Midwest. Passini had a small interest in a restaurant in Morris, Illinois and managed the Rockwell Inn from 1971 to 1985 where he learned the restaurant business.
Laurie’s parents had a condominium at Southwinds and would vacation on the island, so they were familiar with the area and the Snook Inn. When the opportunity came about to purchase the Snook Inn from the Kresse brothers the four decided to move forward and make their way south. That was in 1985 and they never looked back as they built one of the most successful businesses on Marco Island.
Today Laurie and Dennis laugh about the fact they were better as business partners than they were as a married couple, and they have stayed together as business partners and friends, while successfully running one of the most popular gathering spots on the island for over three decades.
Laurie’s parents also continued with the partnership. Laurie’s father Stanley Banks was a fixture around the restaurant until his passing several years ago and her mom, Linda is still on the island.
The restaurant employs 150 people during the height of the season and both Dennis and Laurie point to their success as revolving around the quality of their staff, which they often refer to as family. The Snook is considered a premier employer, providing insurance and a retirement 401K to its employees.
“Our people are really the core of our success and we recognize their value,” said Dennis Passini.
The Snook Inn is built upon the grounds which once held the Doxsee Clam Factory and was always known as one of the favorite fishing spots for anglers who came from far and wide to fish for snook. In the early days there was a set of motel rooms along the east side of the parking lot, which were often filled to capacity every weekend.
Those rooms would eventually be demolished to make way for more parking to accommodate the growing clientele of the restaurant. A number of other large construction projects would increase the draw and reputation of the restaurant, such as the constantly improving outdoor seating and tiki bar, which has continually grown in popularity.
The Snook Inn was one of the first to invest in state-of-the-art computerized pouring stations for their bar staff, allowing the company to keep better track of their inventory and needs of their customers.
“Dennis was one of the smartest men I’ve met in our business,” said Betty Snyder who originally came to the Snook when the Kresse brothers purchased the Snook in 1971 and continued with Dennis, his wife and her parents when they purchased the Snook in 1985.
Betty and her day shift bartender Kathy Canady, who also had 35 years with the Snook, served customers at the tiki bar for over 30 years together. “We just were a great team,” said Canady, a diehard Yankee fan who brought up her children while working there, and like Snyder retired from the popular spot.
When asked what she felt was their largest accomplishment, Laurie Passini points to the fact that they were able to grow with the island as it has evolved, while growing their business to meet the increasing demands of the island.
“We are really proud of the staff here,” said Dennis Passini as he cast his eyes onto a bank of closed circuit screens that panned around the various locations of the expansive facilities that exist there now. “All these people have been part of us, and we them,” said Laurie. “We were blessed, it is as simple as that,” continued Laurie.
Karmen Gobo Banic is an example of those that Dennis and Laurie feel close to, and they consider her a key employee. Banic came to the United States from Croatia, and is now one of the managers for the Snook. She worked many years as a server and brought up her sons here on Marco, within the family umbrella of the Snook Inn.
Duncan Wheeler was another who reflected back on his many years as a bartender under the tiki hut, before he followed his love of music and became one of the favorite entertainers at the Snook, as well as other island venues. “I for one can’t say enough for the character and respect that management has shown to me and all the employees of the Snook. They just treated us with exceptional grace and high regard. I was blessed being a member of that team,” said Wheeler.
The owners of DaVinci’s Italian Restaurant will be the new proprietors of the Snook Inn. This will be in addition to their ownership of Marco Prime and The Oyster Society. Luigi Carvelli is listed as manager. Dennis Passini will stay on for 30 days to help in the transition to the new ownership team, but does look forward, as does Laurie, to a little downtime to recharge their batteries.