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The longtime owners of Calypso Restaurant, the Caribbean haven for fresh Bahamian conch, peppery jerk wings, peel-and-eat shrimp and cutters, have sold their business after 32 years.
Chuck and Lora Ternosky tell the Sun Sentinel that they’ve sold the neighborhood café and raw bar at 460 S. Cypress Road to the owners of South Florida-based Mad Hospitality Group. Ternosky says Mad’s two owners, Matt and Dominick, officially took over the restaurant Monday, but he declined to provide last names.
In an interview Tuesday, Ternosky, 62, says he had been plotting his retirement for years, but the lengthy pandemic, the soaring cost of ingredients and the ongoing scourge of staff shortages left him feeling serious burnout.
“It pretty overwhelming when you have to not only manage a restaurant, but also do dishes and clean bathrooms and get supplies that aren’t always available,” Ternosky says. “That’s a little too much for me.”
COVID-19 has lately become the source of Ternosky’s many grievances, including the topsy-turvy cost of jerk and curry chicken wings, a Calypso top-seller that has doubled in price per pound since the pandemic. After lockdowns, he also ran the restaurant as takeout-only for eight months with a skeleton crew, which exhausted him and stretched out his workdays.
He has since replenished much of Calypso’s staff, which undoubtedly made the restaurant more attractive to its new owners, he says.
“What this business requires of you – which is everything you have – means that [my wife and I] didn’t get to do normal things like shopping, being home for the plumber, the simple things in life,” Ternosky says. “And it’s just time to reap the rewards of our labor.”
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Ternosky plans to stay semi-retired and run the grills “on occasion,” but he has sold Calypso’s homemade recipes for salad dressings, coleslaw, tartar and cocktail sauces, desserts and seasonings to its owners as part of the deal.
He says Calypso’s current owners have no plans to change the menu, décor or staff.
A self-taught cook from New Jersey, Ternosky and Lora moved to South Florida in 1985. He took a part-time job as a cook and dishwasher at the bygone Fitzwilly’s Pub and Raw Bar in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, and opened Calypso in 1990, naming it after the Afro-Caribbean syncopated music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago.
The restaurant rapidly gained a following for its fresh conch, sourced from trips to the Bahamas, along with scallops, clams, oysters and other warm-water tropical fish brought from Costa Rica, Mexico and New England. Even his “cutters” – island lingo for sandwiches – are crusty Kaiser loaves baked daily at Publix across the street from Calypso.
The restaurant’s stuffed dolphin, rice and pigeon peas, and stamp and go – Jamaica-style salt cod fritters – also attracted a following, as did Lora’s house-made desserts that included double coconut cream pie.