“The sun sets on Chapter One of Mosquito Fleet Chili,” Rita Tomayko wrote this week on the Facebook page for her Front Street eatery.
The family opened the Coupeville business four years ago, and recently sold the beloved chili place to Janjira Rattanasint and Aroon Saivaree, who own The Cove Thai Cuisine just up the hill on North Main Street. Rita and her husband Chris are headed to a new home near family in Florida.
On Monday, her last day at the restaurant, Rita looked out the windows across scenic Penn Cove and admitted it’s a view she will certainly miss.
The photo below her Facebook farewell captures that beauty.
It shows the restaurant’s wooden deck that overlooks the Coupeville Wharf and a cloudy sky, lit with orange fire as the sun descends on another day.
Inside the rustic building with old wood floors and a warming fire, Rita and Chris and their three children built a business – and a life – that will be hard to say goodbye to, she said.
Even though it’s hard to leave behind the business they worked so hard to build into a success, Tomayko said she knows they are leaving it in good hands.
“Someone I love is taking care of my baby,” Tomayko said as she smiled at the new owners. “This is your baby now.”
Rattanasint and Saivaree had opened The Cove around the same time that Mosquito Fleet opened its doors, and the restaurant owners became fast friends.
They never reeled in a fish during their early-morning fishing attempts from the nearby wharf, but they still had fun trying, Rattanasint said.
Although the now former owners had received interest from several parties, when Rattanasint expressed interest in acquiring the business, Tomayko said she felt it was a perfect fit.
“They are such good people,” she said, adding that she loves the food at the Thai restaurant.
And it also didn’t hurt that Rattanasint and Saivaree are also fans of the food served at Mosquito Fleet.
The new owners already have printed new menus that include the same items that made the Mosquito Fleet a popular lunch venue.
The tuna salad now has a disclaimer posted next to it on the menu announcing that it is Saivaree’s favorite.
“I love their food,” he said, adding that they plan to use the Tomaykos’ recipes to keep things consistent.
To help ensure a smooth transition, the Tomaykos made sure that the new staff knows how to prepare the food – including those yummy cinnamon rolls – the same way their customers expect and like.
Morgan Murphy, a 2012 graduate from Oak Harbor High School and award-winning member of the high school’s culinary team, has been on the job at Mosquito Fleet for two months. The past three weeks, Murphy has completely taken over the baking.
Tomayko said Murphy has been doing a great job, and the thick, gooey chocolate cookies taste great, according to the reporter who had a chance to sample one.
“I love it,” Murphy said. “It is my first job, but it is already my favorite. I can’t imagine ever wanting to have a better job.”
The new owners have added a few things to the menu from their own culture, including Thai iced tea and special dishes that incorporate fresh steamed vegetables and rice.
With Mosquito Fleet being a lunchtime establishment, and The Cove mostly attracting evening diners, the new owners say they’re confident they’ll be able to balance their time between both businesses with the help of their staff.
Once they arrive in Florida, Rita said she and Chris hope to start a new restaurant. The couple has lots of ideas simmering.
But on Monday, Coupeville’s damp, chilly weather made Florida seem a very long way away. On her way out the door, Tomayko had more hugs to give and receive before she walked up the stairs for the last time and jumped in her family’s van bound for new adventures.
“We worked really hard,” Tomayko said. “But we never could have done it without the love and support of the community.”