A chilly fog rolled in from the Atlantic, making it impossible to see the end of the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier from the Boardwalk.
All around, work crews hammered and sawed – busting up the relative quiet of an early spring morning at the Oceanfront.
Inside Pier House Bait and Tackle shop, Minnow didn’t seem to notice, much less care.
The 2-month-old French bulldog slept quietly in a cushy bed, a play toy near her side and a space heater keeping her little body warm from the cold.
Minnow, you see, is one of the new faces at the long-standing fishing facility. Mom and dad – Traci Mixson and Davis Bailey – are the new owners of the pier’s bait and tackle shop and the couple and a bunch of others have been toiling away at a bunch of serious upgrades to the fishing structure that opening in June of 1950. The facility is privately owned and the group, over the winter, was looking for someone to take over management of the bait shop.
Since the organization wanted to keep everything tied to the owners, Traci said she couldn’t manage the facility alone. Bailey could, so the couple decided to purchase the shop instead of just just managing it.
They have some big plans, starting with Sunday’s inaugural Easter on the Pier celebration from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Not much fishing action is expected, although there could be a few red drum caught if anybody tries to give it a shot. Instead there will be music, celebrations of Easter, the Easter Bunny and more.
It’s a kickoff to what the couple sees as a season of family-oriented events designed to make the pier more friendly to tourists and locals while still maintaining it’s main purpose – fishing.
David has been a mainstay in the local fishing scene and grew up on the pier. Traci has always enjoyed the fishing life since she started freshwater fishing with her grandfather.
The couple, along with three children, recent Kellam High graduate Paige Huybers, Brian Murden and a host of others will play important roles in the day-to-day operations.
Then there is Minnow – the star of the show.
The super-friendly pup is going to be the face of the place in a lot of ways – including “Minnow’s Daily Fishing Reports” on the pier’s Facebook website.
The couple is incorporating local schools, art clubs and artists to fancy up the place. New railings will feature plastic bait-cutting boards so anglers don’t hack into the wood. There will be a new fish-cleaning station and a place where people can pose for pictures with their catches.
In the shop, live, dead and frozen bait will be available and already-rigged rod and reel combos are for rent. Drinks, Ice and snacks will be for sale, but beer and cocktails will have to be purchased from the take-out window at Ocean Eddies.
The new ownership plans to hold fishing tournaments and get involved with the Hooked On Fishing, Not On Drugs youth program, and the Hooked on Hope VB for pediatric cancer families.
“We’re planning lots of events,” David said. “We really want to ramp things up and make the pier part of the community.”
And every community needs a cute pup to be the face of the place.