Coming home to Clayton’s

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Familiar faces now own and operate the well-established Siesta Key restaurant

By Hannah Wallace

Clayton’s may have new owners, but Randy and Mavis Frey are really just old members of the restaurant’s family. Founder Clayton Thompson officially handed over proprietorship of his namesake company this past May, after nearly 20 years in business.

“We had the opportunity to sell our business to so many other folks. We chose them because of our confidence and trust in them,” said Thompson. “Mavis and Randy worked for us many years ago and we know them personally and we share a faith in God. Mavis was instrumental in helping us manage Clayton’s years ago.”

In fact, the Freys, now married, first met as employees there, when the popular Siesta Key restaurant was still owned by the Mattison’s group.

“I was there for almost nine years,” said Mavis of her first Clayton’s experience. “I started out as the food runner/expo. I was a busser, then hostess, then I moved my way into bartending, and eventually I was a server.”

Later she co-managed the catering operation alongside Amy Tanaka.

Mavis, who has a hospitality degree from her native South Africa, eventually shifted careers to become a preschool teacher. But she and Randy stayed in the Sarasota area, and the hospitality business slowly drew her back. In recent years, she’s been periodically helping out at Clayton’s as a sort of on-call manager. “I stayed in the loop,” she said.

When Thompson began trying to take a step back from the industry last year, he initially invited the Freys to join him as partners. “And then he came out and said, ‘Just buy it!’” Mavis recalled.

“I told him, ‘I’m sure you’ve got all these other awesome offers,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, but none of them are you. You bring an extra piece to the puzzle.’”

Mavis now serves as general manager, with previous GM Jacob Butler as her right-hand man.

They hired chef Fenol Marcelin, who most recently worked at Shore on Longboat Key, to ensure that Clayton’s high standards for scratch-made food continue. And while they plan to keep the menu the same for now, Mavis hopes to incorporate some of her South African influences — as well as Marcelin’s French-Haitian background — into specials and perhaps even new menu items in the future.

For now, Mavis is simply “a working employee,” and is savoring the opportunity to re-immerse herself in the Clayton’s family, including the guests. She makes a point to visit every table while she’s there — five or six days a week — and she loves to ask people where they’re from and spend time with them. “The feedback has been exceptional,” she said, adding with a laugh, “If I drank every glass of wine I got offered, I would not be able to have those conversations.”

For someone who knew early on that she wanted to go into the hospitality industry, Clayton’s represents the realization of a lifelong dream.

“I’ve always wanted my own restaurant, I knew it was going to happen for me, I just didn’t know when and where and how,” she said. “[Clayton’s] is something I’m familiar with. I know the guests, I know the employees, I know the ins and outs. It’s home.”

Hannah Wallace
Author: Hannah Wallace

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