Joseph Weiss-the "Joe" of Joe's Stone Crab-came to Miami in 1913, when his doctors told him that the only help for his asthma would be a change of climate. Joe and his wife, Jennie, both Hungarian-born, were living in New York, where their son Jesse was born in 1907. Joe was a waiter, and Jennie cooked in small restaurants. Some seventy years later, Jesse recalled the move: My dad borrowed fifty dollars on his life insurance policy, left my mother and me in New York, and came to Florida...He stayed in Miami one night, and he couldn't breathe. So he took the ferry boat that used to go to Miami Beach. Oddly enough, he could breathe over here. So, he stayed here and started running a lunch stand at Smith's bathing casino. That was the beginning of the restaurant that was the seed for Joes. You'd come over and rent lockers to change your clothes to use the ocean or use the pool! The gals used to have the long bathing suits with the stockings...that was 1913. He sent for my mother and myself-she had this brat on her hands. We came down by train; I was six years old when we arrived. Collins Avenue was not really a street-it was sort of a trail with ruts in it. In 1918, Joe and Jennie bought a bungalow near the casino, on Biscayne Street. They moved into the back, set up seven or eight tables on the front porch, cooked in the kitchen, and called it Joe's Restaurant. Jennie waited on tables, Joe cooked, and everything started to grow from there. When it got crowded, they'd spill over into the dinning room. They served snapper, pompano, mackerel, and some meat dishes. "We used to open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in those days," Jesse remembered, "because we were the only restaurant on the beach. For about eight years there was no competition. And my father made a hell of a fish sandwich."
Joe WeissJoe WeissJoe and Jennie Weiss
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