For our latest Drinking Buddies feature, we sat down with Donna Qvarnstrom, owner and operator of Cobb’s Landing and Little Jim Bait & Tackle in Fort Pierce, FL. Both are successful businesses in their own right and feature fresh seafood, craft cocktails, live entertainment, and history.
Drinking Buddies Interview
How long have you been in the hospitality business? What is your background?
“I have been in the hospitality business for 38 years. I started as a server at 20 and have worked every position in the industry, including Food Service Distribution, and have worked my way up to ownership.”
Can you tell us the story about Cobb’s Landing? How did it get started?
“I worked for the owners of TIki Bar & Restaurant in Fort Pierce, and in 2005, an opportunity to purchase the Cobb’s Landing restaurant came about. We opened the restaurant in January of 2006 and have been serving the Fort Pierce community since.”
And what about Little Jim Bait & Tackle?
“Little Jim Bait & Tackle is a historical icon of Fort Pierce, serving the Navy Seals back in WWII. The former owners were looking to retire and we were lucky enough to obtain the lease in 2019.”
Can you tell us more about the menus at both locations?
“We are constantly evolving with our menus to keep up with the changes and demands in today’s world. We try to know our customers and what they are looking for, which helps guide us.”
“Cobb’s Landing features a variety of fresh seafood dishes, including tacos, entrees, a raw bar, and more.”
“The menu at Little Jim is very casual, and we have items ranging from boiled peanuts to tacos and everything in between. We also recently started our Breakfast on the weekends.”
What is your favorite menu item at each location?
“At Cobb’s, my favorite has to be the Poke Bowl. At Little Jim, it’s definitely the Blackened Shrimp Tacos.”
You have a nice selection of craft cocktails at each location. Can you tell us about the drink menu?
“Our bar menus are so great! We have a great infusion selection, along with our bourbon and tequilas. Our Craft Cocktails are collaborative between our bartenders, managers, and myself. We often try seasonal cocktails, too.”
“At Little Jim, we have the ‘Lost in Paradise’ cocktail menu. It’s a collection of our customers’ favorite beverages like the Pullin Drag & Summergirl, which are both local charter boats that bring their clients to Little Jim. In addition, we have some longtime favorite creations like the Black Cherry Cooler.”
There is also a variety of mocktails available. Is that something new that you are trying?
“We added Mocktails a couple of years ago as the ” Taking a Break “movement from alcohol has become huge, and when you are the DD or choose not to drink, you still want to be able to have a cool beverage to sip on.”
What is your go-to cocktail?
“I’m a tequila girl, so my go-to is a Komos Rose Reposado on the rocks. But our Signature Pineapple Mojito is awesome. Little Jim’s Black Cherry Cooler is my favorite at that location, with the Pain Killer being a close second.”
Has live entertainment always been a part of your hospitality businesses?
“Yes, we have had live music for over 14 years. Over the last 2 years, we have incorporated it into a daily event. Most of our acts are local or have local ties to the area. 95% are from Florida.”
“We also have some amazing entertainment at Little Jim. We have music daily and twice a day on Saturdays & Sundays. Some of our favorites are Aquinas from Melbourne Beach and the Leafy Greens out of Jupiter. We also have our Own Live Bait (Will & Dave) from Ft Pierce. Our entertainment calendar is located on our website.”
Can you tell us more about the Banquet Room for private events at Cobb’s Landing?
“Our private room upstairs seats 65 with a full bar and restrooms. We are booked 75% of the year with weddings, rehearsal dinners, bridal & baby showers, business meetings, and birthday celebrations.”
What about the actual bait and tackle aspect of Little Jim? I’m sure it is a popular spot for local fishermen and tourists before going out.
“We have an array of Live Bait (Shrimp, Pin Fish, Pig Fish, croakers) along with frozen bait. We also carry everything you need to load up your tackle box if you forgot anything from hooks, Mono & fluorocarbon, rod & reel combos, and, of course, sunglasses and sunscreen because we always seem to forget that at home.”
I saw there is a campaign to save Little Jim from redevelopment in the area. Can you tell us more about that and how people can help?
“We are trying to get the site listed on the Historical registry. It served as a guard shack for the Navy in the 40’s, and we believe the spot should always remain the same. People can vote on change.org.”
How has Fintech helped with managing your alcohol program?
“It has streamlined our invoices, especially with having them in a digital format and being able to track your credits and pricing to keep on top of today’s rising prices. I find the real-time banking activity and managing your credits the most useful because, in this business, every dollar counts in managing your cash flow and ensuring that you know what product is coming in and out of your store.”
We thank Donna for her time and for the chance to speak about Cobb’s Landing and Little Jim Bait & Tackle. If you ever find yourself in Fort Pierce, FL, do yourself a favor and enjoy a fresh cocktail with the ocean breeze and some live entertainment.