’35 years and it’s over’: Charlotte County’s Fishin Franks destroyed by fire after bizarre crash

Published: May 24, 2020 6:44 AM EDT
Updated: May 24, 2020 6:20 PM EDT

A long-standing and beloved Charlotte County business was destroyed in a fire Sunday morning after a vehicle crashed into it.

Witnesses said a pickup was flying down US-41 at around 2 a.m. when it left the road, ran into an embankment and went airborne, landing on top of Fishin Franks Bait and Tackle about 50 feet away.

The 32-year-old driver of the truck was airlifted to Blake Memorial Hospital with severe burns. The Florida Highway Patrol has not released the man’s name and said alcohol is believed to have been a factor in the crash. His condition has not been released.

The truck’s charred remains sat atop the building until a tow company removed it at around 8:30 a.m., more than six hours after the crash. US-41 was shut down as firefighters worked to put out the flames. All lanes were open by 9 a.m.

Fishin Franks opened in 1985, according to its Facebook page.

“Fishin’ Frank,” as he wishes to be called, said he would take Polaroid pictures of those who came into the shop. He had 3,000 stuck on the ceiling, all of them lost in the fire.

The 62-year-old said he doesn’t know what he’ll do now.

“I’ve been here 35 years,” he said. “That’s your entire life of memories that I look at this and I have more than your … I got your whole life worth of memories in here. My whole life of memories. Our life. This is all we’ve done for 35 years and it’s over.”

A crowd of emotional onlookers gathered at the scene Sunday morning, watching as crews doused the flames and removed the pickup.

“You just start crying because Frank has been a staple to this community. I have pictures of my kids in there; he supports the kids, he supports our community, he supports everybody. He gives away tackle. He gives away so much to these little kids in our community … we need to do something for him. We have to do something for him; his employees are our family,” said David Summers.

The community immediately began to rally around the business, setting up a Facebook page called “Rebuild Fishin Franks,” where people were offering up everything from a temporary location to food for the workers.

Fishin Franks’ neighboring business, Soundworkz, also sustained heavy smoke and water damage.

As part of the outreach response for Fishin’ Frank and his beloved business, Deven Starr, a local musician, plans to host a Facebook LIVE concert at 6:30 p.m. on his page. He encourages people to join the live-streaming event. In his post, Starr says all tips received digitally and in person will be donated to Fishin’ Frank.

Fishin Franks Bait & Tackle (Credit: Google Street View)