The first time I walked through the front door of Mad Beach Fish House, I was immediately struck by the extensive, diverse, astonishing collection of antique fishing tackle and accessories displayed on every single wall and hanging over and between every door and window.
I sat eating my meal and enjoying the conversation with my dinner companion, but found it difficult to keep my mind from occasionally veering from the conversation at hand to the history summoning me from the walls.
Yes, the title of the restaurant lets you know fish is on the menu, and the menu and the fish are fantastic. But nothing prepares you for the combination of the wonderful scent of fresh seafood wafting silently through the air from the kitchen to the dining area, while surrounded by an entire history of saltwater fishing. Memories come alive as antique tackle displayed over your table bring the fragrances of the kitchen to life and for a moment you can imagine your grandfather as a young man, rod and reel in hand, pulling in a fresh catch that the two of you will enjoy together one more time.
No matter the level of your interest in fishing, from die-hard guide to weekend warrior to every-once-in-a-while, when you get a chance, you’ll struggle to keep your seat while you eat, and not aimlessly wander off on a self-guided tour of the history of fishing tackle. And you’ll have a new favorite seafood restaurant.
After my first visit, I wanted to know more so I asked the owner of Mad Beach Fish House, who recently celebrated one year in ownership of the restaurant, if she could tell me more about the collection. A few emails and several phone calls later we were able to schedule a meeting with the owner of the collection, and I enjoyed the pleasure of sitting down with Tom Scancarelli, proud owner and collector of all things antique fishing related.
When you meet Tom for the first time, it’s hard not to be struck by his authenticity. Some would call him “down-to-earth” and they would be right. His passion for his collection grabs you, pulls you in, and commands your attention. You find yourself enthralled by his knowledge of every single piece of the collection.
Tom Scancarelli is a fishing picker and long before anyone had ever heard of American Pickers, long before there was an Amazon.com and long before you could conveniently type antique fishing tackle into a google search window, Tom Scancarelli started a life-long search for vintage and antique fishing merchandise, the old-fashioned way. “Back when I started collecting, there was no internet, there were no search engines – you just had to get out and look for stuff. Old fishing tackle was all over the place, so it really wasn’t too hard to find. People were practically throwing it away and I bought anything and everything I could. It started out as a hobby, turned into a passion, then kind of became an obsession”. Tom was storytelling as he laughed out loud and looked out the window toward the water behind the restaurant, as if starting a private walk down memory lane.
The collection includes items that date back to the late 1800’s and range to the 1960’s. Spools of fishing line still in original packaging, rods and reels of all sizes, mostly saltwater tackle but sprinkled with freshwater fly fishing gear, tackle boxes, lures and much more are included in the collection. Shadow boxes are hung strategically throughout the restaurant and contain the “smalls” - while rods, reels, and gaffs are displayed prominently as well.
I asked Tom how the collection came to reside at Mad Beach Fish House. “Well, I had this great collection just collecting dust and I was the only one who got to enjoy it. I noticed that it was getting harder to find this stuff a few years ago and the items I had been collecting for a long time were all of the sudden starting to be really popular. The American Pickers television show started making people pay attention to historical artifacts. I knew I had a deep, quality collection. I just thought it was time to share it with other people. I knew the previous owners of Mad Beach Fish House and approached them about displaying my collection at the restaurant. When Amy took over the restaurant, I met her and just had the feeling she was really going to put her heart and soul into the restaurant, so I didn’t even consider moving the collection. In fact, I’ve added to it – and plan to keep rotating things. I just want people to be able to see it and hopefully they’ll appreciate the history of the collection.”
People are seeing it. The success Amy and the rest of the staff at Mad Beach Fish House are having has led to an ever-growing clientele, which means more people are enjoying a unique glimpse into the history of fishing tackle. Amy and Tom invite you to stop by and have a look. Take your own walk down memory lane. They’ll be glad to see you.