2013 Biz Person of the Year: Charlie Manwaring

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Charlie Manwaring, owner of Southold Fish Market since 2000, purchased the Southold bar/restaurant Sophie’s Rest this past year with Thomas Grattan Jr.

At least once a week, Kim Chilton drops by Southold Fish Market to purchase fresh seafood. Though the fish selection sometimes changes, one thing remains constant: shop owner Charlie Manwaring’s affable disposition.

“You walk in and he always has a great smile, a warm hello, no matter how busy he is,” said Ms. Chilton, a Southold native. “He takes that moment to look up and make eye contact.”

In recognition of his dedication to exceptional customer service and his devotion to the North Fork community, Charlie Manwaring is The Suffolk Times’ 2013 Business Person of the Year.

A lifelong Southold resident who grew up working on the docks with his father, a commercial fisherman, Mr. Manwaring got a job at Southold Fish Market when he was just 12 years old. He took over as owner in his mid-20s, in 2000.

And one year ago, Mr. Manwaring and his business partner, Thomas Grattan Jr., became co-owners of Sophie’s Rest, a Southold bar and restaurant that has long been a popular town haunt.

“Both Tommy and I are revamping the place,” Mr. Manwaring said. “It hasn’t been done in so long that we’re just constantly fixing everything. We make a little money, we fix it; we make a little more money, we fix it. It’s something that’s probably going to be an ongoing thing throughout our whole lives.”

Those who know Mr. Manwaring are quick to comment on his strong work ethic, noting that he regularly puts in 10- to 12-hour days at Southold Fish Market. Longtime employee Nicole Sinning is one such person.

Ms. Sinning first met Mr. Manwaring a decade ago when her father, John Sinning, a commercial fisherman and Southold police officer, secured his then-teenage daughter a part-time job at Southold Fish Market.

“He’s such a hard-working guy,” Ms. Sinning, now 24, said of Mr. Manwaring. “And he was so supportive when I graduated college. I didn’t find a job right away and he said, ‘Work here when you can, at the fish market.’ I would go to the city and up-island for interviews and Charlie was so understanding. He really pushes his staff. He makes us work hard but at the same time he makes us want to succeed in whatever we want to do.”

Though she now works full-time for a media company in Smithtown, Ms. Sinning travels each weekend to work a Sunday shift at Sophie’s Rest.

“He’s just a great guy to work for,” she said.

When he isn’t running Southold Fish Market or making repairs at Sophie’s Rest, Mr. Manwaring is a volunteer firefighter with the Southold Fire Department. He’s also heavily involved with the Southold Baymen’s Association, for which he helps organize a large annual fundraiser.

“He takes care of all the tickets and he’s in charge of the whole dinner,” Southold Fire Department chief Bill Byrnes said. “It’s amazing how it comes together. [The fundraiser] isn’t even advertised anywhere and the tickets sell out within a matter of days.”

Mr. Byrnes, who first met Mr. Manwaring at Southold Fish Market about 15 years ago, described him as a person who’s “always willing to help.”

To illustrate this point, he recalled an incident that occurred a couple years ago, when a small fire broke out in one of the freezers at Braun’s Seafood in Cutchogue.

“Charlie called me up and said ‘What are you hearing?’ ” Mr. Byrnes recalled. “He wanted to know if he should go up there and offer space from one of his freezers. Even though they’re in competition with each other, they help each other out.”

“Charlie does right by everybody,” Ms. Sinning said.

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