The Chiles Family

As told by Ed and Bud Chiles

Sustainability. Seafood. Small-town solidarity. Civil service. These terms are all synonymous with the Chiles family, which has made an indelible mark on Manatee County for generations. Restaurateur Ed Chiles has helped transform the landscape of Anna Maria Island—and its surrounding beachfront areas—into an eco-conscious stronghold. A commitment to locally sourced food, green buildings and a community-centric economic model are all aspects of the Chiles family signature. And carving out the Chiles name locally began during some of the earliest days of Anna Maria Island.

“My whole life, we always came to Anna Maria for the summers. Some of my relatives owned a bunch of property on the north end of the island,” Ed Chiles says. “And there was so much history here. The Anna Maria City Pier was built in 1911 and The Sandbar was built in 1912. People came in by steamer. They promenaded down Main Street (Pine Avenue), came straight across the island from the bay to the Gulf, and a bathhouse sat right there. My uncle, Alfred Chiles, had a house that was built in the 1940s. So, I don’t remember ever not being on Anna Maria. I guess I came in utero, even before I was born in 1955.” Ed Chiles’ grandfather, Lawton Mainor Chiles Sr. (a railroad worker from Polk County), vacationed in the area during the summers. He gave birth to a son: Lawton Chiles Jr. (later married to wife, Rhea), who served three terms as a Florida Democrat in the U.S. Senate and two terms as governor of Florida. He was known for being a champion of tax and health reform.

 Lawton Chiles Jr. also helped launch a father-and-son venture with Ed Chiles: The Sandbar Restaurant on Anna Maria Island, which the two opened in 1979. Ed Chiles went on to own two other waterfront eateries that continue to thrive: Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant on Longboat Key (opened in 1990) and The Beach House Waterfront Restaurant on Bradenton Beach (1993). Ed Chiles and his partners developed Anna Maria Island’s Pine Avenue into what has been dubbed “The Greenest Little Main Street in America.” The historic boutique business district (dating back more than a century) has been lovingly preserved but also modernized. Today, the buildings are all certifiably green.

 The same is true of Ed Chiles’ restaurants. The culinary hotspots carry items that make the local community proud. For example, the menus feature a sustainable delicacy that is sourced straight from the Cortez historic fishing village in Manatee County—grey striped mullet, dried and cured into a product called bottarga. 

 Ed Chiles recognized that the processing of bottarga had been outsourced overseas, so he and island native Seth Cripe created the Anna Maria Fish Company to keep the production in the community. The company now produces more than 5,000 pounds of bottarga each year—a huge economic boon to Cortez.

 To further fortify the Manatee County economy, Ed Chiles owns Gamble Creek Farm in Parrish, which supplies fresh, organic produce to his restaurants. Composted material from the restaurant kitchens, and from the Anna Maria Fish Company, are returned to the farm to create fertilizer.

“What we’ve done, in terms of working on sustainability and the environment, has been critical,” Ed Chiles says. “We have intrinsic resources here in Manatee County that we can utilize to hopefully turn back the clock on things we’re dealing with—like climate change—and feed people high-quality, sustainable seafood, too.”

Ed Chiles had the foresight, long before many others in his industry, to go green locally. And that vision has had a domino effect for decades.

“If we can be a model for sustainability, as big as we are as a restaurant group, then we can encourage others to do it,” Ed Chiles says. “If we can compost and create soil, then maybe we can even encourage Manatee County to get a composting project going (which is what we’re doing). We really better be doing everything we can, and we’re not shy in that regard.”  Supporting sustainability is an ongoing family initiative (carried on by Ed Chiles’ two daughters, Ashley and Christin; as well as his wife, Tina). Ed Chiles’ brother, Bud Chiles, also runs an organic blueberry farm in Lakeland called Jubilee Orchards.

“I’m happy to see that more and more people are caring about green issues. When you take that first step in sustainability—when you look at who is growing your food and where it’s coming from, it all just builds,” Ed Chiles says. “And that’s what happened with us when we got on the road to sustainability and understanding the economics of buying local.” This mission matters to Ed Chiles, both as a businessman and an Anna Maria Island resident. But he is also driven to preserve his childhood summertime memories—to cherish and protect the town his family has known and loved all his life (and longer).

“I remember those days of being on the beach, getting coquinas, catching mackerel with my dad at the City Pier and fileting them when they were still flopping,” Ed Chiles says. “I remember the peppermint ice cream at Key Sundries. The smell of the salt. The side streets that were all shell. Just the way the salt felt when it baked your little body. You could go out all day and come in at 9 p.m., and your parents never had to worry about anything. The best thing we can do is have a light footprint and leave Anna Maria the way we found it.” Bud Chiles agrees, as he shares the same nostalgic memories with his brother. “My parents would bundle us up into the station wagon and take us there. We learned to cast mullet nets, and wade in the ocean at night to scoop up crabs in buckets,” Bud Chiles says. “My brother and I would explore the whole island during hot summer days, grabbing ice creams at the drug store. It’s truly a home away from home for all of us.” —A. Weingarten