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Euphemia Haye, Longboat Key landmark, celebrates 40 years

Ray and D’Arcy Arpke started small, but Euphemia Haye is the talk of the town 40 years later.

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  • | 2:45 p.m. August 24, 2020
D'Arcy and Ray Arpke in "the only spot in the restaurant (they've) never been photographed."
D'Arcy and Ray Arpke in "the only spot in the restaurant (they've) never been photographed."
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“Family” is kind of the name of the game at Euphemia Haye.

It’s run by a husband-and-wife duo and  named after the original owner’s grandmother. It's a place that countless people have found and taken their families in the 40 years Ray and D’Arcy Arpke have owned and operated the iconic Longboat Key landmark. 

“They really have become kind of a mom and pop for everybody rather than just having that title of owners or managers or CEOs or whatever you want to call them,” 13-year administrator Amy Whitt said. “They’ve really kind of taken on that role of head of the family.” 

Euphemia Haye’s “pop” Ray Arpke always knew he would work in restaurants. He’d been in a kitchen since he was 16 and went to school to learn how to cook.

Later, he met D’Arcy while they both worked at the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort (where so many Longboat Key stories start), and knew he’d found his partner — in life and business. Just before they bought Euphemia Haye (a small, manageable restaurant for a couple in their 20s), Ray was the head chef at Cafe L’Europe and remembers driving from his home in the Village to St. Armands Circle. From the Colony south to the golf course, it was all woods, until one day they were gone. 

The dessert counter at Euphemia Haye.
The dessert counter at Euphemia Haye.

“I was like, ‘Oh, things are changing,’” Ray said. “One of those big places went up there and they've been going up ever since.”

More and more people have poured onto the island in the years since the Arpkes bought Euphemia Haye, but they’ve found all the best ones in customers and employees. Some of their employees have been around the restaurant since the pre-Arpke days, and Whitt said she’s one of the youngsters since she’s “only” been there 13 years. General manager Colin Wilson predates the Arpkes, and some waiters and cooks have been there 20 years or more. Even the dishwashers have been around for 12 or more years, D’Arcy said. 

“It's kept us going, kept us engaged,” D’Arcy said. “We don't all hang out there all the time or anything like that necessarily, but in general you know what's going on with their families and so forth.”

Bartender Sammy Lassinger is a youngster by Euphemia Haye standards, though he's been there for over six years.
Bartender Sammy Lassinger is a youngster by Euphemia Haye standards, though he's been there for over six years.

“For instance, D’Arcy just this past week has written congratulations to the children of people who work for us who graduated,” Ray said. “She's dear that way.”

Locals and out-of-towners alike flock for family get-togethers and D’Arcy loves when she hears that someone’s been coming there since they were a kid, or that a couple got engaged in the restaurant 25 years ago. Every few years, a family of regulars adds another generation. But there’s a crew of longtime locals who frequent the place for the atmosphere, friends and food. 

“It's kind of our little version of ‘Cheers,’ I suppose,” 23-year customer Susan Phillips said. “When we have events with friends, a lot of times we just drift in there all together so you can walk in and sit there and order a pizza and a Caesar salad and before you know it, you're surrounded by everybody.”

Aside from the friendly gatherings, Phillips has taken her father to Euphemia Haye several times. Phillips found out that her father and Sammy Lassinger, the youngster bartender (he’s only been there about six years, while his predecessor Eric Bell tended bar for about 30), shared a hometown. She takes him in there to chit-chat with Lassinger from time to time. 

“One of the most enjoyable things is if you're upstairs in the Haye Loft for your dessert, and it's when the dinner orders are tapering off and what's the most fun is when Ray and D’Arcy kind of take off the aprons and come upstairs,” Phillips said. “As the dining or business is winding down, you get to sit and kind of hang out with them. That's always a treat.”

These days, the Haye Loft is open for the full menu unlike any other time in its history, as the Arpkes try to spread out their diners as much as possible amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Regulars say it’s their preferred spot, up in the cozy upstairs loft that originally consisted of apartments when the Arpkes bought the place. D’Arcy said that it’s like the restaurant has had two lives — with and without the Haye Loft, which was added in 1990. The restaurant has expanded six times over the years, going from 28 original seats to 150 now. 

“My mother is a dessert freak and she loves upstairs for dessert,” 23-year regular Lyn Haycock said. “We've taken our grandkids there for dessert upstairs. But typically we go with a set of friends.”

Anyone who’s known the Arpkes for any length of time knows they’re huge Green Bay Packers fans, and Ray and D’Arcy have been at the Haycock home for football Sundays in the past. Like any Packers fans, they’re huge Brett Favre fans — something Whitt and other employees took note of. They actually got a video from the quarterback via Cameo, a service that allows you to send a note to a celebrity asking for happy birthday, congratulations or the like. Favre congratulated the Arpkes on 40 years. 

The ladies of the Garden Club. Courtesy of Susan Phillips.
The ladies of the Garden Club. Courtesy of Susan Phillips.

“They were very excited,” Whitt said. “I don’t want to say there were tears, but there were tears. We knew that would mean a lot to them coming from Brett Favre, so that was kind of our main goal to let them know how appreciated they are.” 

The restaurant has become a confluence for community gatherings and an icon for community service. Ray has taught cooking classes and done demos over the year, which is how Haycock started frequenting the place, and Chef Arpke has taught many how to properly cut an onion. The Arpkes have participated in an annual walk for Junior Diabetes Research Fund where Ray cooks a massive breakfast and attendees walk in Joan Durante Park next door. They love helping other Key restaurants and are a longtime participant in Forks and Corks and the Garden Club’s Taste of the Keys and Fashion Show every year. 

“They're more than just a restaurant,” Haycock said. “They're kind of almost like family, I guess. It's a good gathering place for friends because it's easy and it's close by, and D’Arcy and Ray usually end up chatting with some of us or all of us. It just feels comfortable to me. I know my way around.”


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