Monday, October 18, 2010

Cocoa Beach Pier: 50 years of seaside history, geocache location

As Space Coast residents celebrated the achievement of becoming a spaceport not far away another group of entrepreneurs built their dreams, a pier that would launch into a Coney Island type seaside resort. The construction of Canaveral Pier began in February of 1962 and was completed in October with a price tag in excess of $150,000.

This venture was started by five Brevard businessmen. Two of the partners were Charlie Moehle, a dredging expert, who along with Rick Stottler who founded the Brevard Engineering Company in 1959. With the experience of many local civil engineering projects they unveiled their new 800 foot fishing pier on 270 pine-leg pilings. There wasn't much to it just a bait shop and a grill and typical of business start-ups there were many financial headaches." Back then, things were happening and looked like they would keep happening." said Charlie Moehle ,the pier's
architect. "The idea was to expand along the beach and do additional concession and rides.”

The first sign of success was reported on October 29th when the Cocoa Tribune published an account of a near record catch from the pier, a ten pound Spanish Mackeral, the fish was just 1/8 from the world record. But the Pier was destined to become more than a place for catching great fish but an enterprise housing budding businesses, a surfers’ mecca, and a bandstand for heart pounding rock and roll groups.

One of the first businesses to set up a storefront at the pier was Ron Jon’s. Vice President of the company at the time, Janice Baugher gave an interview in 1986 to a high school journalist where she shared her description of the early days of Ron Jon’s. “It all began in 1963 when owner Ron Dimenna brought a truck full of merchandise and settled in Brevard County to open a surf shop. The truck was his home for six months.“ said Baugher. With just $5,000, founder of Ron Jon’s opened a small store on the Canaveral Pier and stocked it with Levis, Rainbow Sandals, one small rack of bikinis and baggies, and surfboards.”

The shop was DiMenni's home for two years while he built up his business. "It's not just about opening a store and immediately becoming successful." stated Baugher. "This is a very long success story. Had it failed, he simply would have tried again." But it didn't fail. The beach was young and progressive, and the small shop flourished. Later due to growth Ron Jon’s moved from the pier to Third Street North, and then to the corner of 520 and A1A in 1967.

Tom Wasdin became a part owner in 1967. Under Tom's management the enterprise began billing itself as a haven for teen-agers and their beloved surfboards. In those days, it was more for young people," Wasdin said."We promoted it as the Surfing Capital of the East Coast."

A nightclub called The Asylum at the pier featured a psychedelic light shows and blaring rock music. Started in 1968 this promotion was short-lived as the popularity waned. A major remodeling job was undertaken in 1975 to attract more families. The new manager Doc Kelly wanted to get a mix of the old and the new. "Were doing the whole thing, repairing, remodeling. We're making the bar look like the inside of a ship. We’ll call it Man-O-War." Said Doc Kelly. "We're setting a 20 by 12 foot plastic clear insert in the middle of the floor. The folks will be able to sit there and eat seafood and watch the surf wash underneath them. Next year we want to get the (surfing) pros in here, offer $1,5000 to $2,000 in prizes." The pier and surfing flourished and in 1985 the name was changed to Cocoa Beach Pier to reflect the name of the city it was located in.

A Geocache is located outside the pier for the GPS enthusiast. Located underneath the boardwalk by the welcome sign.


Ron Jon "Hangs Ten for 23 ” by Kimberley Cook.
The New York Times 1962
Cocoa Tribune 1962

Author welcomes feedback from readers.

Previous comments made.

Lori Stottler> There was a nightclub with a dance floor that lit up entirely (very funky for the time) called the Asylum. In the beginning cars could drive right on up the Pier. There have been a host of musical acts that have played at the Pier: Beach Boys, Bachman Turner Overdrive, Flock of Seagulls, UB40, Edgar Winter Band, Ratt, Maxi Priest, Banto Panton, Ziggy Marley….just to name a few. Kelly Slater used to surf the Pier break as well as many other surfing legends did previously like Murf the Surf. Many astronauts have visited the Pier: Alan Shepard, Robert Cripton etc.

Gile Malone>Giles Malone became Pier GM in 1986 and met with the then Mayor of Cocoa Beach, Bob Lawton and decided to change the name to the Cocoa Beach Pier as that was the city of origin. The Tourism Development Council of the Space Coast joined in the renaming celebration with Malone, Lawton and Pier Director of Marketing, Wendy Ellis. In 1991, Malone designed and built a new 90-foot long gift shop called Ocean Notions and worked with Joel Brown Construction to get it built with the cooperation of the City. Over the next ten years, Malone created several additions to the Pier including the Atlantic Ocean Grill Restaurant Banquet Room, the Boardwalk Bar, the Mai Tiki Bar (at the easternmost end of the Pier in cooperation with Wayne Coombs, owner of the Mai Tiki Gallery in Cocoa Beach), Oh Shucks Seafood Bar, Sea Dogs Concession and Rickys Ice Cream Parlor and Family Fun Center.

Can you share any memories of your days to the pier? Your comments are welcome.

View the Pier now through this Webcam