As legend has it, pirates plundered the Gulf Coast long before real estate developers sought its treasures.
One such scallywag was “Happy Hooker,” named for the hook that replaced his left hand. Rumored to be a descendant of another famous Italian sailor – who sailed the ocean blue in 1492 – “Happ” and his feathered friend “Shark Bait” made their home on the shores of Alabama.
But “Happ” wasn’t your average pirate. He was always happy and doing good deeds. Even when he rescued ships stuck on a reef, he only took small amounts of their gold in return. He buried much of his treasure along the beach, which folks are still finding to this day.
“Happ” and “Shark Bait” loved this place so much they decided to retire here. They began serving up “Spec’s Italian Subs” – a recipe from the old country – creating a late afternoon tradition of libations and snacks they dubbed (you guessed it) “Happy Hour.”
Happy Harbors survived many a hurricane to stand strong today, proudly operated by descendants of Ol’ “Happ” himself. Dominic Specchio runs the place, but it was his father, “Spec,” who dreamed up the business – and the little ditty you just read.
The Specchio crew vacationed in the area long before they decided to venture into the water sports business in 2007. In the beginning, they had only the marina, wave runner and pontoon rentals.
Now, with the addition of four restaurants and bars boasting the best pizza on the island, “We’ve grown into a conglomerate for family fun,” Specchio says. “We have everything from big music events to boat storage to ice cream.”
Their full-service marina was nothing more than a dry storage facility prior to Hurricane Ivan. The Specchios did a lot of work, putting in a new dock and fuel pumps.
“We consider ourselves more of a ‘hybrid marina,’” Specchio says. “We can do storage, fuel and all the amenities, but we pride ourselves mostly on our water sports.”
Available rentals include wave runners, pontoons, runabouts and kayaks, and Happy Harbors has a great working relationship with Southern Rose Dolphin Cruises and Chute ‘Em Up Parasailing, located just across the parking lot. Specchio sends over a lot of referral business, a trait that must have been inherited from great-great-grandpa “Happ.”
With so much growth in such a short time, the Happy Harbors family now seeks to settle in and sustain. “We built it, now we’re just trying to ride this wave,” Specchio says. “We have great local support at all our locations – that was a big goal, to be a local favorite.”
There’s no age group that can’t find something to do at Happy Harbors – from the kids going out on boats with their parents to the young adults enjoying the bar scene, to snow birds who dine in the relaxed atmosphere.
Happy Harbors has four restaurant locations on the Island – the Marina Road “Mothership,” “On the Line” across from the Flora-Bama, “Oyster Bay” off the beaten path, and the newly renovated Pizzeria on the beautiful Ole River.
“Our diversity sets us apart, everything we offer,” Speccio continues. “It’s hard to find a place that has something for everybody.”
You heard it here … There’s more than one way to get happy at Happy Harbors.