Fishin Franks won’t reopen after loss of business to fiery crash last year

Published: January 13, 2021 4:48 PM EST
Updated: January 14, 2021 4:07 PM EST

It’s time for Frank Hommema to put down the lure and pass on the fishing rod.

The business owner, known as “Fishin Frank” in Port Charlotte, has been through a lot in his 35 years of selling bait and tackle from his fishing store on US-41.

Hurricane Charley demolished his storefront in 2004. And an IRS audit caused him to lose everything. But, a fiery crash that caused the store to burst into flames last May was a bit too much to come back from.

“It’s not nowhere near the first time that I would’ve had to start over from scratch but my age is a difference,” Hommema said. “When the pickup truck lawn-darted through the roof, that might’ve been a sign I should quit.”

And so he did, but not before shedding tears over the loss of an important community business.

“I shed more tears that two weeks of the fire than I did since I was six years old,” Hommema said.

Friends and customers helped to raise about $50,000 for the store after the crash in hopes that he would rebuild. But, Hommema said he is handing the money to his long-term employee, Robert Lugiewicz, who plans to open a new bait and tackle shop called “Blind Tarpon Tackle.”

Lugiewicz is legally blind, he said. He is looking for a building with ample parking for his future store.

Meanwhile, Hommema plans to take some time off to travel in his RV. The crash crushed Lugiewicz because he spent more than half his life working on his business.

Hommema said he hopes people will embrace Lugiewicz.

“People are amazing,” he said. “The people are amazing and that’s what kept me in it, and Robert has that same passion for people.”