Make us your home page
Instagram

After decades running the Colonnade, Tampa family watches it auctioned off piece by piece (w/video)

TAMPA — Jack "Smokey" Whiteside tried to relax as he sat with his wife, daughter and nephew on the old wooden benches outside the entrance of the Colonnade restaurant Wednesday morning.

A stream of people poured out the double doors hauling away the restaurant's insides: wicker chairs, glassware, ceiling fans, even the restroom sign.

After 80 years in business, the Whiteside family closed the restaurant last month when it sold the property at 3401 Bayshore Blvd. to a developer who plans to build luxury condos. On Wednesday they hosted a public auction and watched the historic restaurant dismantled before their eyes.

"This property has been in my family for 100 years," Whiteside, 72, said. "My father was born here. I've been here all my life."

The auction drew hundreds of people, including pragmatic restaurant owners looking for cheap plates and kitchen equipment; and nostalgic customers and former employees who wanted to bring home a piece of Tampa history.

"We went back and forth about doing an auction," said Mary Anne Whiteside, Smokey's wife. "So many customers came to us in the first week after we closed asking for everything."

It was too much to manage, so they passed it off to Tampa Liquidation Center, who came prepared Wednesday with a food truck and about 10 employees to sell thousands of items.

The only things the Whitesides grabbed before the auction were family photos that hung next to the entrance and a framed 3-by-5 piece of paper dated July 3, 1935 — an invitation in typed cursive from Dick and Jack Whiteside (Smokey's father and uncle) for the restaurant's opening.

Years prior, their mother, Lois "Manie" Whiteside, had coerced Dick and Jack into selling lemonade on the property. It was during the Great Depression, but the boys did well for themselves and eventually opened the restaurant with her. Their father, Dr. Richard Whiteside, was a prominent dentist in Ybor City at the time.

"It was closer to a food truck with a few stools," Mary Anne joked. The family couldn't settle on a restaurant name on their own, so they took suggestions. The Colonnade was submitted by a family friend, inspired by the columns on the original structure.

The business became so successful that, according to Whiteside family lore, the Colonnade sold the second most Coca Cola of any restaurant east of the Mississippi (the top seller was in Atlanta, the company's headquarters).

"We used to line up the glasses," Smokey said. Two squirts of syrup, fill with ice, then soda water and topped off with an olive. "Kids from Plant High School would come in by the hundreds and they'd just grab them," he said.

Dick and Jack met their wives at the restaurant, where servers brought the food to customers' cars and a burger or sandwich was 20 cents.

Over the years, the property was home to lemon trees, the former Whiteside family estate and a horse named Dynamite. Even today, the family has a deep connection to the land, and plans to relocate three squirrels that live on the property.

"We're all reliving the memories together," said Smokey's daughter, Stacey Whitfield. "We've had time to grieve, and we're so appreciative."

The family is private and has stayed largely out of the spotlight. "We were always about our customers and the employees," Mary Anne said. "Food Network made restaurant owners become rock stars. We were never like that."

At least 20 former employees also stopped by the auction Wednesday, paying their respects and taking some memories home.

Tim Eastwood, the kitchen manager of 25 years, said he has been taking some time off since the closing last month. He didn't need anything flashy — just a couple of glasses. He also plans to take some of the bamboo from the front of the restaurant.

"I know what it means," he said.

Though some family members and former employees cried during the daylong auction, Smokey remained stoic, maintaining his humor. "I could fire you for smoking out here," he laughed at one former employee. He admitted, though, that the event in many ways resembled a wake. The family and community were enduring a substantial loss.

"We kept this place open a long, long time," he said.

Contact Alli Knothe at aknothe@tampabay.com. Follow @KnotheA.

After decades running the Colonnade, Tampa family watches it auctioned off piece by piece (w/video) 05/11/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 10:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Nearly 1 in 4 Tampa Bay homeowners considered equity rich

    Real Estate

    If your home is worth at least 50 percent more than you owe, you're rich — equity rich that is.

    About one in four Tampa Bay homeowners are considered "equity rich." [Associated Press file photo]
  2. The FHP trooper behind quota on speeding tickets will retire Sept. 5

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — A Florida Highway Patrol official's call for troopers to meet ticket quotas has cost him his job.

    Major Mark D. Welch, Troop Commander of Troop H, wrote an email asking his employees that he wants them to write two citations each hour. "This is not a quota," he wrote. His resignation is effective Sept. 5. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  3. Trump shuts down CEO advisory councils as main group acts to disband

    Business

    President Donald Trump's main council of top corporate leaders disbanded on Wednesday following the president's controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them. Soon after, the president announced on Twitter that he would end his executive councils, "rather than …

    President Donald Trump meets with Merck's chief executive, Kenneth Frazier, second from left, and other leaders of the pharmaceutical industry in the Roosevelt Room of the White House last January. On Wednesday, Trump's main council of top corporate leaders disbanded following the president's controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them.
[New York Times file photo]
  4. A long-awaited vision for Tampa's Westshore Marina District

    Real Estate

    TAMPA —Eleven years after plans to develop a waterfront tract on the Tampa side of the Gandy Bridge were first announced, a new rendering gives a hint of what Westshore Marina District ultimately will look like.

    Rendering of Marina Pointe, a condo project overlooking Tampa Bay as part of the Westshore Marina District. [Courtesy of Masterfile Corp.}
  5. Buddy Brew Coffee to open downtown Tampa location

    Business

    TAMPA — Buddy Brew Coffee plans to open a new location in downtown Tampa at Park Tower in early 2018. The specialty coffee craft roaster, which was founded in 2010, has five other locations throughout Tampa including the Oxford Exchange, Sarasota, Hyde Park Village and Terminal F inside the Tampa International …

    A cappuccino is displayed at Buddy Brew in Tampa in January 2017. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]