Careful planning and lawyerly persistence turn a Frogg into a prince
I like to write about local restaurants that just keep on keepin’ on - day after day, with a minimum of drama. I admire that kind of fortitude - especially in today’s anti-business climate. One of these places is approaching a 40-year anniversary and, in spite of all regulatory efforts to hobble it (and all our restaurants), it just keeps featuring good comfort food, warm camaraderie and weekly live entertainment - against all odds. You’ve probably already guessed that I’m talking about The Pond.
The Pond wasn’t always The Pond. In fact, it wasn’t even The Frogg Pond when Lee and Eileen Smutz bought The Sea Breeze in 1982, renaming the tiny storefront Frogg Pond Tavern. Saying it was the quintessential locals’ hangout would be an understatement. And as the town grew, so did that popular spot as neighboring spaces (not the least of which was a laundromat) became available for expansion.
And The Pond (nee Frogg Pond) is about to expand yet again under the watchful eye of Plymouth Rock native and former trademark attorney Pete Borsari. He and his business partner purchased the bar in 2002 as an investment. Pete rolls his eyes as he told me, “I thought it would be fun and easy to be an absentee owner. After all, the place was already successful.” Then he smiles ruefully: “Obviously that wasn’t to be the case.” Needless to say, he can be found on premises virtually 24/7.
Since then, he has worked hard to give this Frogg just the right kiss to turn it into a prince. Not too much of a prince, mind you, but just princely enough to appeal to an even wider range of locals and vacationers. Part of the streamlining process was to shorten the name, and as The Pond approaches yet another decade milestone, Pete wants to hit that milestone running. “You can’t sit still in this town,” he says. “You have to evolve with the times.”
And evolve he has. Strict attention to the kitchen and the menu has legitimized The Pond’s lunches and dinners. (The ribs, the cheesesteaks and anything with the words “sloppy joe” in it are already Rehoboth Foodie pick hits.) Live music is still a weekly mainstay, along with the legendary Trivia competition and the bar’s long-established seasonal celebrations like New Year’s and St. Paddy’s Day.
When I first met Pete, he told me, “We have to evolve with the times. We love and value our faithful patrons, but we need a wider appeal to survive.” Back then he had no way of knowing how prophetic that would be. Under the increasingly arbitrary restrictions being heaped upon our local businesses, at 30 percent capacity it’s a daily struggle just to keep the lights on in that small space.
So, last Sunday night - with the sound of house favorites Lower Case Blues still echoing on S. First Street - The Pond closed its downtown doors one last time. A brand-new Pond will rise on Coastal Highway in the space vacated by the never-all-that-well-run TGI Fridays. Though the exodus from the old location is admittedly bittersweet for everyone, the virtually unlimited (free!) parking, coupled with a kitchen almost the size of the entire downtown location, plus a fully professional stage, will bring The Pond deservedly into sync with many of our larger local establishments with enough space and seats to weather this ongoing regulatory storm.
Last week, Pete sent a long and heartfelt email to his supporters and friends. I’ll take the liberty of letting him end this article in his own words: “I wish I could mention and thank by name every employee, every musician and every patron who has been part of The Pond these nearly 40 years. Of course, that would be impossible. Please know how grateful I am for the love and support you have shown to The Pond and particularly to the staff. We look forward to seeing our Pond family at our new location on Coastal Highway. While we don’t yet have an opening date, we know that we must be open for St. Patrick’s Day weekend which is March 12. After all, that is a tradition we must always keep.”