Home' The River Weekly News : RWN 091815 Contents Historic Downtown Fort Myers, Then And Now:
Café Of Two Names
by Gerri Reaves, PhD
When the Vasiloff brothers came to Fort Myers in late
1912 or early 1913, it was a good time to begin careers
as restauranteurs. The 19-teens boom was in the air.
The State of Florida had officially reincorporated the town
as a city in May 1911, a change in status justified by the town’s
economic prosperity and growth.
Charles Vasiloff had fulfilled his dream of immigrating to the
U.S. in October 1912, with the sponsorship and financial assis-
tance of his older brother Angelos “Angie,” who had preceded
him, according to Mary Vasiloff Murphy, who wrote about the
brothers in her family history Remembering Charles: A Hail-
After Angelos explored various Florida locations, the brothers decided on Fort
Myers as the place to settle and establish a business.
Angelos rented one of the new storefronts in Tonnelier Court (today’s Patio de
Leon), which was still under construction.
That restaurant, pictured in the historic photo, was near the Court Theatre and was
one of several commercial spaces along the west side of the court entrance from Main
Street (then called Oak Street).
The business was named the Busy Bee Café, but became known as the Court Res-
taurant because of the court and the theater’s names. Note the name “Court Restau-
rant” at the top of the sign.
Pictured (left to right) are an unidentified waiter, Angelos, Charles and two unidenti-
fied kitchen staff members.
Note the hanging globe light with “EAT” written on it and sign in the window (left)
advertising Orange Crush.
The restaurant was successful, no doubt due to good food and service, as well as
the location next to a popular motion-picture theater, something of a novelty at the
The sign advertises “regular dinners” for 35 cents, home-made pies, and “all kinds
of sandwiches and short order” at “all hours.” The café was open every day from 6
a.m . until midnight.
Angelos was the cook and baker, a daunting job, since the restaurant baked not
only its own pies, but bread, biscuits, muffins, rolls and cobblers, too.
The brothers put an emphasis on treating all customers with respect and dignity.
People who were hungry and without funds were not turned away.
Part of Angelos’s plan was to teach the restaurant business to his younger brother,
who was only 18 or 19 when they started out. And that turned out to be prudent, for
Charles was eventually left to run the restaurant on his own while Angelos did military
service during World War I.
Around 1919 and after WWI, the café moved to the west side of Hendry Street in
a storefront in the Leon Building just south of First. At that time, the original name,
Busy Bee Café, was revived and prevailed.
Charles then left the café and tackled a new venture; he went to Naples and built
the Bay Shore Hotel in financial partnership with his brother in 1921.
However, he sold the hotel the following year, returned to Fort Myers, and became
a partner in the Poinsettia Café in the Earnhardt Block.
He died in 1926 at the age of only 32.
Angelos sold the second Busy Bee in 1928, and it closed soon after that.
He went on to have a major influence on restaurant history in Fort Myers, partly by
training men who went on to open their own restaurants.
He also became a partner in the popular Poinsettia Café, and in 1929 until 1954 a
partner in the Fort Myers Café at Main and Broadway.
The structure where the Vasiloff brothers started their first restaurant and worked
like “busy bees” was demolished long ago, but their entrepreneurial spirit lives on in
Stroll through Patio de Leon and imagine a time when it was possible to enjoy both
a movie and fine dinner right there.
continued on page 6
THE RIVER - SEPTEMBER 18, 2015
The River Weekly News will correct factual errors or matters of emphasis and interpretation that appear in news stories.
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Gerri Reaves, Ph D
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Cynthia A. Williams
The section of Tonnelier Court where the Busy Bee Café (aka Court Restaurant) stood was
demolished decades ago
photo by Gerri Reaves
Brothers Angelos and Charles Vasiloff opened the Busy Bee Café in Tonnelier Court (today’s
Patio de Leon) in late 1912 or early 1913. Anglos, wearing a bowtie, stands center, with
Charles on the other side of the sign. The woman and two men (rt), a waiter and kitchen
staff, respectively, are unidentified.
courtesy Southwest Florida Historical Society
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