New Cocoa Beach Pier owners promise renovations
COCOA BEACH, Fla. – The iconic Cocoa Beach Pier has new owners, and they plan a multimillion-dollar makeover of the beachside tourist attraction.
"We're going to clean it up and fix it up," Jim Gissy, a partner on the venture with David Siegel, told Local 6 news partner Florida Today.
Siegel is founder, president and chief executive officer of Orlando-based Westgate Resorts, which bills itself as the world's largest privately owned time-share company. Gissy is Westgate's executive vice president of sales and marketing, and has been a business associate of Siegel's for more than 30 years.
"We're very bullish on Cocoa Beach for the future," Gissy said. "It's the closest beach to Orlando."
The 800-foot-long pier — which dates back to 1962 — is home to five restaurants and bars, as well as retail shops. It has hosted a number of surf festivals and concerts over the years.
Siegel said he expects the Cocoa Beach Pier acquisition "will be the first of many" ventures for his company in Brevard County, but declined to elaborate.
He said the pier renovations will be comprehensive.
"There won't be one inch of it untouched," Siegel said. "We want to take it back to its glory days."
In addition to structural renovations, Siegel plans to upgrade the food at the pier.
"We know the attractions business, we know the hospitality business, we know the restaurant and bar business, and we know the retail business," Siegel said.
Gissy said planned additions include Nathan's Famous hot dogs, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Starbucks coffee and Hershey's ice cream. A game arcade also will be added.
The pier was built in 1962 by Richard Stottler Jr. of Cocoa Beach, who died in 2010. It originally was known as Canaveral Pier.
In a statement announcing the purchase of the Cocoa Beach Pier from the Stottler family, the new owners said the plan is to make the pier "the premier family dining and entertainment destination for the Central Florida/Cocoa Beach community."
Stottler's daughter, Lori Stottler, said in a statement that her father "always had a vision to elevate the pier to become an icon of the local tourism industry."
She said her family decided to sell the pier to Siegel and Gissy "because of David's long-standing family ties to the local community, and the vision that David and Jim shared with our late father. They are the ideal team to carry on the legacy of the world-famous Cocoa Beach Pier."
Members of the Siegel family have lived in Brevard County since 1972.
The deal closed Wednesday. Financial terms were not disclosed.
"We paid a hefty price for it, but we're happy and the seller is happy," Siegel said.
Cocoa Beach Mayor Dave Netterstrom said he is excited about the future of the Cocoa Beach Pier, which he said is one of the area's global iconic landmarks, along with Ron Jon Surf Shop.
Netterstrom said the company's plans for the pier mesh with its time-share business.
"They want to upgrade it and put some businesses in there and invest in it," Netterstrom said. "They manage thousands of time-share units in Central Florida, and their customers want to come to the beach. They see the pier as something to bring them to."
Siegel said the Cocoa Beach Pier businesses have about 150 employees, and he expects that number will grow. He said he has no plans to restrict the free access to the pier.
Westgate operates 23 resort properties in 12 markets in nine states.
Siegel gained national attention as the focus of the 2012 documentary "The Queen of Versailles." That film followed Siegel and his wife, Jackie, as they set out to build the largest private residence in America, modeled after the French palace in the title.
Siegel noted in the sale announcement that many members of his family grew up in the Cocoa Beach area, "and we have many wonderful memories of the time spent here. We are honored to become the custodians of this magnificent landmark, and we are fortunate to have the resources necessary to ensure that the legacy of the pier is protected and renovated in a first-class manner."
Siegel said he plans to use the Cocoa Beach Pier "as a means to bring his children into the family business and learn the art of entertaining families."
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