Pearl restaurant to open on Rockland waterfront

By Stephen Betts | Feb 11, 2010
Photo by: Stephen Betts Jimmy Fanning takes a break to discuss his plans for the Pearl restaurant. Rockland Harbor is in the background.

Rockland — Jimmy Fanning said his best friend had been asking him to come to Rockland for each of the past six years to sail aboard a schooner.

Finally during last Memorial Day weekend, Fanning came to Rockland to join Jason and Shannon Tittle aboard the Stephen Taber.

"The minute I turned on to Main Street, I turned to Jason and said, 'I get it,'" Fanning said.

After going sailing, he returned to his out-of-state home, packed his bags and then moved to Rockland. He moved into 256 Main St. with its view of Rockland Harbor. He immediately spotted the former Black Pearl building and began thinking what a shame it was that the restaurant was not open for the summer season.

Fanning, who has run six restaurants in both South Florida, where he grew up, and Southern California, decided he wanted to get back into the restaurant business with the Rockland waterfront location.

"All my restaurants have been about locations. And this is as epic a location as you can get," Fanning said as he looked out the window of the building with its view of the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse and islands of Penobscot Bay.

Fanning, two brothers-in law and a nephew have made a commitment to start up the restaurant that will be named "The Pearl." The Pearl will be a seafood and lobster restaurant at the end of the dock that extends into the center of Rockland Harbor.

Conte's Restaurant will be converted into a marine service shop and be called The Pearl Store. The marine service shop will serve the 20 to 25 boats that will be able to dock overnight or during the day at the dock and slips at the Pearl property.

Fanning said Conte's will move out of its space on April 15.

The Pearl restaurant will open May 15 and be open through Oct. 31 when it will close with a Halloween party. The business will employ 65 people on a seasonal basis.

Fanning's other family members include brother-in-law Gary Renner, who worked for 29 years in the food and beverage business with Walt Disney World in Florida. The other brother-in-law, Frank Nasworthy, is an engineer who retired from Hewlett-Packard. Nasworthy lived in Maine when he was younger since his father was a pilot at Brunswick Naval Air Station. Fanning's nephew Chris Bensen will serve as general manager and provide the "youthful energy" needed to run a restaurant.

Fanning said he has adopted Rockland as his hometown. He said the people have been very supportive of his effort.

Fanning said everybody he runs into has stories about good times at the old Black Pearl.

The building was rebuilt in 2005 after a fire destroyed the former building at the same location in December 2004. Grapes Restaurant was located in the building at the time of the fire. The Black Pearl had closed a few years earlier after decades, starting as Captain Pete's restaurant.

Comments (3)
Posted by: Kathryn Fogg | Feb 11, 2010 19:17

I still miss the atmosphere of the old Black Pearl when Virginia Larson owned it.  The lights were dim, items from around the world donned the walls, the wonderful piano player whose name escapes me for the moment (Marion?) and the music of various musicians.  I am sure many in the area remember many a happy hour spent there.

Posted by: Sumner Kinney | Feb 11, 2010 16:51

This is such great news for Rockland and the immediate area.  We have here a willing entrepreneur to stick his neck out in these uncertain times which speaks well for our area.  Let the community rise to support Jimmy and his endeavour.  Welcome.  See if you can't keep the gulls off the roof.

Posted by: Donna DeLena | Feb 11, 2010 14:35

Has Contes gone out of business?

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