Quite the balancing act

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Family, business, coaching — Sebastian Marin, owner of the Seafood Joint in the Village, has found time to do them all in standout form

By Hannah Wallace

Sebastian Marin can keep a lot of balls in the air. In the last five years, he’s been a successful Siesta Key restaurateur, Cardinal Mooney head soccer coach, and a father — three jobs that can each demand superhuman amounts of energy. Marin has done all three in the same day.
“You kind of learn from each one how to spread the time around,” he said as he drove from his Village restaurant, the Seafood Joint, to his youngest child’s school on the mainland, to a seafood market in St. Petersburg. “When I grew up, people were always telling me I had a lot of energy. I think that shows in my work ethic.”

Marin came to Sarasota with his family as a child and channeled his energy outdoors, playing soccer at Twin Lakes Park, fishing and enjoying the beach. After college, he embarked on a food-service career with a couple of the area’s most storied seafood restaurants and fish markets. He also returned to Cardinal Mooney, his alma mater, to coach. He learned that success in either setting depended on teamwork.
But after more than a decade of working toward the success of other people’s restaurants, Marin longed to run his own spot. He envisioned a casual joint dedicated to fresh, local, sustainable seafood from the local commercial fisheries on Pine Island, Cortez and in Pinellas County. He’d offer high-quality products that could also help preserve the local environment he fell in love with as a child.
“A lot of people won’t hesitate to just buy off any boat, and then we have no way of knowing where that fish came from or what day it got pulled out of the water,” he said.
Finally, in 2018, Marin saw an opportunity to grow his business just as his family was growing, too. He opened the Seafood Joint Market and Grill on Avenida Madera, right in the heart of Siesta Village. At the same time, he was 10 years into his coaching career, and his first son was less than a year old.
Despite his energy, Marin exudes a sort of easygoing geniality that makes everything look deceptively easy. But in retrospect, tackling new fatherhood, coaching, and a brand-new restaurant simultaneously “was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” he admitted.
Still, his vision came to life.
“My specialty was always going to be to display the fresh fish in front of the customers and have an open-kitchen concept,” he said. “The fish case is right there in front of the tables, the grill is right behind us. The kitchen is pulling from the fish case to cook the orders. We don’t have a microwave. The freezer is only for the French fries and snow crab.”
The concept has proved popular. With fewer than 30 seats, the Seafood Joint fills up fast with diners in search of fresh grouper, snapper and more. On top of that, the market’s retail sales account for 30 percent of Marin’s total business (and that figure gets up to 50 percent for holidays). Marin also offers off-site catering with dishes like fish tacos and seafood boils. Teamwork remains key.
“Everybody [at the restaurant] is kind of like me,” he said of his trademark energy. “My place is small. The cooks and the servers are all relying on each other. One can’t work without the other.”
And while Marin retired from coaching in 2019, he went out on a high note. In his last season, he coached the Cardinal Mooney boys to the state finals for only the second time in the school’s 60-year history.
Marin’s two sons are now 6 years old and 10 months old. Even without the coaching gig, Marin is still running. And it doesn’t look like he’ll be stopping any time soon.
“From a young age, I just had a lot of energy,” he said of his continued success. “Being a soccer player, we can play much longer than anybody else.”

Hannah Wallace
Author: Hannah Wallace

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