Booming Buffettville

Jimmy Buffett fronts a diverse business empire that includes the planned Margaritaville in A.C.

By Lori Hoffman
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Booming Buffettville Jimmy Buffett fronts a diverse business empire that includes the planned Margaritaville in A.C. By Lori Hoffman

cap: photo by tom briglia-->

Jimmy Buffett developed his legion of Parrot Head fans thanks to a persona that's part beach bum, part hippie, and music that matches his laid-back style. He brings his "Year of Still Here" Tour to Boardwalk Hall this Sunday (Aug. 24), sponsored by Caesars. While Bufett's music continues to support the image of the surfer dude with a margarita in one hand and a guitar in the other, his business conglomerate known as Margaritaville Enterprises, LLC, is successful enough to make Donald Trump envious. Matter of fact, Trump and Buffett are business partners these days -- indirectly.

Chairman Richard Fields and his Coastal Marina, LLC purchased Trump Marina for $316 million from Donald Trump back in May. The company is planning to refurbish the casino as a destination resort under the Margaritaville brand, working with Buffett's company. Buffett's company is also working with Harrah's on a Margaritaville Casino Resort in Biloxi, Miss., scheduled to open in spring 2010. It will be an interesting race to see which Margaritaville-themed casino opens first.

The proposed casinos are just the latest news from Buffett's business side. The 61-year-old entertainer first made his major expansion beyond music in 1985 when he opened the first Margaritaville restaurant in Key West, Fla. There are currently nine Margaritaville restaurants. Cheeseburger in Paradise, a casual dining restaurant chain started by Buffett, has 38 locations in 17 states. Buffett licensed the name and Outback operates the franchises, but his company no longer has a financial stake in the chain.

Aside from the restaurants, there are 10 Margaritaville apparel and souvenir shops, most of them under the Smuggler's Hold label. Soles of the Tropics is Buffet's on-line footwear company, and the Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker is also for sale on the Internet. Buffett has licensed Margaritaville Tequila, Margaritaville Shrimp, Margaritaville Chicken, LandShark Lager (a cooperative project with the Anheuser-Busch brewing company), Margaritaville Salsa and, of course, Margaritaville Margarita Mix.

Here is the pitch for Buffett's line of frozen foods: "More and more frozen seafood aisles all over America are featuring taste sensations like Calypso Coconut, Island Lime, and Jammin' Jerk. Whether it's our Sunset Shrimp Scampi, our Mini Crab Cakes or our Captain's Calamari Strips, food critics and fans everywhere agree that our seafood is fantastic."

photo by tom briglia

Beyond his food and beverage enterprises, Buffett has knocked out three best-selling books. Tales from Margaritaville and Where Is Joe Merchant? spent over seven months on the New York Times best seller fiction list. A Pirate Looks At Fifty made the New York Times best seller non-fiction list, making him one of seven authors in that list's history to have reached No. 1 on both the fiction and non-fiction lists, joining Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and Dr. Seuss. His current novel, Swine Not?, is the tale of a southern family that moves into a New York hotel and must hide their pet pig Rumpy from the staff since the establishment has a no pets policy.

Let's see, what business enterprise hasn't been mentioned? Oh, yes, music. Buffett has a popular station on Sirius Radio, Radio Margaritaville, featuring his daughter Savannah, 29, as one of the hosts. His "gulf and western" style of music has produced 30 albums, eight reaching gold status and nine earning a platinum designation. His most recent major release is Live In Anguilla, a three-disc CD/DVD release from a concert on the titled Caribbean island.

According to StubHub, Jimmy Buffett's current tour is ranked fourth in total money taken in, behind the Jonas Brothers, Billy Joel and the Dave Matthews Band, and ahead of Bruce Springsteen. In tickets sold, Buffett's tour is No. 2 behind only the Dave Matthews Band. So, while Jimmy Buffett might have his fingers in so many other pies, he takes them out often enough to strum his guitar and remind us that music is still what drives Margaritaville-mania.

A Phlock of Parrot Heads

Jimmy Buffett's biggest fans congregate in a series of officially sanctioned Parrot Head Clubs across the nation. The local branch of the club is the Jersey Shore Parrot Head Club ( formed in 1999, with over 210 paid members in Atlantic, Cape May and Ocean counties. Beyond gathering to express their worship of all things Buffett, these clubs raise money with charitable events year round. The current president is real estate agent Carol Ridler (pictured below).

When did you first become a Jimmy Buffett fan?

I first became a Buffett fan at my first live concert. I had the tapes before, but didn't really "get it" until my first concert experience. I have seen him about 35 times. Buffett concerts are much better in the Northeast. The Southern people just don't get the whole tailgate experience. Toronto Maple Reefers really know how to tailgate!

Tell us about the Golfballs in Paradise event Aug. 23-24.

Golfballs in Paradise was the brainstorm of the Seaview Marriott [in Galloway] in coordination with the Jimmy Buffett concert in town. Events include a buffet, music, volleyball tournament and golf Saturday. Sunday is the Golfballs in Paradise tournament with Tiki huts on the course and Jimmy Buffett music. [For complete details call 748-7660]. Donations will be made to the Atlantic County Women's Center and to the

I own lots of Buffett paraphernalia including light-up palm trees, poster-sized artwork, Margaritaville foods and clothing. On my Christmas list is the Margaritaville Frozen Concoction Maker. My favorite Buffett stuff is ticket stubs and my Margaritaville memories. Each show has a special memory. My favorite memory is dancing in the aisles to "Desperation Samba" and "Dixie Chicken."

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