It’s the end of an era,” said Stacey Purcell, the owner of Gulfport Realty and the realtor who facilitated the Thursday, April 19 sale of the local landmark restaurant known as La Cote Basque for a cash price of $575,000.
The 2,758 square foot, one-story, family-owned restaurant opened in 1972 in a freestanding building located at 3104 Beach Boulevard in downtown Gulfport. It has had three generations working there.
The recent restaurant owner and current president of La Cote Basque Winehouse, Inc. is Theresa Frohne, 92. She and her chef-husband, Ernest started the business. He had been a chef at the Wine Cellar, which it was then called, and the owner sold it to him. Ernest was from Germany and Theresa was from Switzerland. The restaurant mainly featured French cuisine with corresponding western European ambiance and décor.
The Frohne’s two daughters, Carmen and Simone worked there alongside their parents.
“Learning the tricks of the trade and mastering recipes from generations past, the girls became the ultimate team,” wrote Rachel Jolley in a Patch news story dated January 19, 2012.
In time, two men who were brothers were hired to help and the two sisters fell in love. Marriage followed. Carmen’s son, Dalton Dunham grew up and worked in the restaurant until he went his own way as an adult and became a licensed boat captain.
On the day of the sale, Dunham also said it was the end of an era in the opening of a Facebook post he published on his own page.
“I can’t even begin to explain all the different emotions I’m feeling at the same time,” Dunham wrote. “My family’s restaurant is now sold, all the memories good and bad are now behind us. I’m sad because of the fact that this place was a huge part of me since I was born. I’m very happy because now my mother can be free to be who she wants to be.”
Before the business closed in the fall of 2017, the restaurant was open 42 hours a week.
On March 24, 2016, Theresa Frohne registered Carmen Frohne as the corporation’s vice president, secretary and treasurer in an amendment to the 2016 annual Florida corporate filing that was originally dated February 17. Theresa Frohne remained the president.
By the late fall of 2017, Theresa Frohne had listed the business with a realtor other than Purcell and the buyer kept pushing back the sale date for a period of about five months. Purcell found out about this when she recently met with Dunham about a topic unrelated to real estate.
“The next day, I get a call in my office from a man who wanted to see some commercial property in downtown Gulfport,” said Purcell. “I told him there really wasn’t anything but that I would make a call” to see if a place under a contract that was going to expire within days might be available.
She called Dunham and he put Purcell in contact with his mother. The two worked together with the principals to facilitate a quick sale with the new buyer once the existing contract expired.
Steve Couch, originally from Tennessee, “is here all the time,” said Purcell. “He lives in Tierra Verde and wanted a little piece of Gulfport.”
He is now the new owner of the building that once was home to the Frohne family business. Couch also owns a yoga mat manufacturing business.
Purcell says Couch “doesn’t know what he’s going to do with the building. He might lease it to a Gulfportian or he might sell it.”
As of Tuesday, April 24 at 2 p.m., a total of 157 people had reacted to Dalton’s Facebook post and 18 people had shared his news to their Facebook walls.
Pia Goff, owner of Pia’s Trattoria located just down the street at 3054 Beach Boulevard, was one of the first people to post a narrative reply.
“We sure will miss you!” she wrote. “We were good neighbors from the start. I will never forget when your grandma sent us this little Jesus picture over, to protect us from all evil. So sweet. We here at Pia’s wish you and your family all the best!”