The Overseas: A Rich History

In 1937, Marathon was a frontier town. It had thirteen bars, no churches, no schools, and it was about to have a major highway built through the center of town.


The center building of the Overseas Pub and Grill was originally built with the main road (Route 4) to the north and Flagler’s Railroad out back on the south side. After the hurricane of 1935, the railroad went bankrupt, the federal government bought the tracks, and it began to build a highway from Homestead to Key West. That highway was US Route 1, also known as The ‘Overseas Highway.'

Charlie Toppino was the first to see an opportunity to provide services for locals and travelers headed to Key West along the new highway. He built the main building in an area where there were no other buildings at the time (it was all the way out on 35th Street), and eventually it became the center of 'Old Town' Marathon. 

In 1948, Charlie added the Overseas Motel with rows of street lights, adding a touch of class to Marathon. Soon after, Charlie added a marina on the north side of the property to serve active fishermen and boaters. In 1952, the Ardolino Brothers purchased the entire property: the land from the railroad right of way all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, which included the Overseas’ hotel, motels and marina. The three brothers operated the property until Hurricane Donna came in 1960 and eventually Joe became the sole owner of Overseas Liquors and Lounge until his death in 2005. The estate of Joe Ardolino sold the property to Tim and Kathy O’Connell in 2013.

Tim and Kathy have been Marathon residents for 16 years and have been vacationing in the Keys since the 80's. They have managed successful bars and businesses their entire professional lives (including the famous McQ’s in Niagara, NY in the 1970’s). They took almost 3 years to carefully restore the interior and exterior of the Overseas Pub and Grill (with a lot of great, local help!) to reflect the feel of the Florida Keys while also paying tribute to Marathon’s storied past. 

We hope that you like the new Overseas Pub & Grill. It’s a family place, so have fun, be good or be gone!

-Tim and Kathy O’Connell


 

The keys to Overseas change hands

 

October 4, 2013 by Sara Matthis

On a recent Friday afternoon, a bit of history was made at the Overseas Lounge and Liquor Store. Timothy O’Connell accepted the Keys for his new venture from the estate representative, Joe Ardolino Jr.

It’s a big undertaking: the restoration of a 76-year-old building and business. The bar itself has been closed since 2008, and a the subject of a legal dispute between the City of Marathon and the estate over matters ranging from the right to sell alcohol, to an abandoned roadway, to wastewater hook up schedules. The new owner, O’Connell, said he hopes to replace the unpleasantness with a vibrant and thriving economic concern.

O’Connell and Ardolino, Jr., conferred on some history points when they met.

“Your dad bought the place in 1950?,” O’Connell asked of Ardolino.

“1951,” Ardolino corrected. “There were three brothers — Andy, Tony and my father, Joe. My dad was the youngest and he was the one that ended up staying here.”

Ardolino told O’Connell there used to be two neon signs advertising the business — one facing west and another facing east. The latter was knocked down in 1960 by Hurricane Donna, Ardolino said.

O’Connell said the toughest challenge still lays ahead — revealing and preserving the place’s history while transforming it into a modern-day money maker, another jewel in Marathon’s crown.

“Where the old package store was, we’re going to put a fast food restaurant — burgers, hot dogs, fish sandwiches, ice cream,” he said, waving toward the west end of the building. “And in front, we’re going to put a new package store,” he said, pointing to the part of the building that most recently housed a thrift shop.

He envisions a sit-down, inside restaurant and bar and an outside, rear-facing bar looking out on a grassy lot where some dilapidated trailers rest now.

“I don’t know exactly what, but I’d like to use this area for something — maybe some art booths or small retail booths,” O’Connell said.

The re-opening of the Overseas Lounge and Liquor Store is many months away. O’Connell said he hopes construction will start before the new year because there are plenty of structural issues that need to be addressed (new sections of roof and spalling repairs) before the fun stuff starts. The visualization will be gradual.

“I think it will take me a while to get the feeling of it,” he said. “I won’t even bring my wife down here until we’ve done some clean up.”

O’Connell and his wife of 41 years, Kathleen, were business partners before they married. In their lifetime, they’ve owned a college bar, McQ's, an advertising business and a transport company in Buffalo New York. The pair have been vacationing in the Keys since the mid-’80s and lived here permanently since 2000, when they set up residence on a 60-foot motor yacht. They have two children — Casey, a hematologist and oncologist at University of Southern California, and Sandi, in the fashion industry in New York City.