Smokin one.jpg

Rick and Donna Wideman are the owners of the Backyard Pub in Crystal River.

Rick and Donna Wideman had no intentions of getting back in the bar-restaurant business after they moved to Florida to build their retirement home.

But when they found out the former owners of Natalia’s Pizza & Pasta closed their place at 771 NE Fifth St. in Crystal River, they couldn’t resist.

“I guess it’s part of our nature and we couldn’t pass up a new opportunity,” Donna Wideman said.

The Widemans remodeled the former Natalia’s and their new place — the Backyard Pub — had its ribbon cutting and official grand opening last Tuesday.

The new pub had been doing a “soft” opening since March 26 to work out any problems before the big grand opening.

The road to the Backyard Pub was winding.

The couple has been in the bar and restaurant business for over 17 years and were bar owners before they got married.

“We bought the bar that we met in and it has been an exciting journey since,” Donna said.

Born in Illinois, Donna has been legally blind from birth. She has “light perception,” which enables her to perceive the presence or absence of light.

She is able to navigate the Backyard Pub through that perception and a familiarity with the layout of the place.

Donna went to Northern Illinois University to become a special education teacher for the blind.

“I ended up moving to Florida and got into the business world instead, which I really enjoy,” she said.

She went back to school, became a software engineer and ended up in St. Louis, where she met husband Rick, who has a chef’s degree. They still own the Double D Karaoke bar in Brentwood, Missouri.

Donna said she wanted to try something different with the Backyard Pub.

“The deal was right,” she said. “My husband wanted to cook. He loves barbecuing and (we integrated) some barbecue items into the menu.” Rick put up his smoker in the parking lot and cooks pork and other barbecue items for the restaurant.

“We also found that most restaurants close early or are not open on Mondays, so we hope to fill that void,” she said.

The Backyard Pub bills itself as the “Home of the Smokin’ Buns & Pizza.” It specializes in “casual, backyard, comfortable dining.” Entrees include pizza, gourmet burgers, ribs, calzones, stromboli, salads, homemade meatloaf, pasta and Donna Wideman’s own mashed potato recipe. Backyard Pub offers lunch catering and there is a full liquor bar.

And, knowing the Cuban sandwich was popular with the old Natalia’s crowd, the Widemans kept that on the menu.

“About 95 percent of our stuff is homemade,” Donna said.

New auto store

George Knightly has taken ownership of All Prestige Auto at 309 U.S. 19 in Crystal River.

Knightly, who has experience in automotive repair and towing, will offer the same services at the new location and also offer a full line of repair work on all domestic and foreign vehicles.

Knightly said what sets his business apart from other repair shops is the commitment to quality parts, friendly service and experienced staff.

Knightly started his automotive repair career in 1979 in Connecticut.

“I was 15 years old and working in the (repair) shops,” said Knightly, a GM and ASE master technician.

The business’ former owner is Chris Gregoriou. The new name has been tweaked somewhat to Knightly Auto Inc.-All Prestige. The towing end of the business will service Citrus, Levy and Gilchrist counties.

Goodbye, hello

After 12 years at the same location in downtown Crystal River, the owner of Wholesale Leather and Accessories has decided to close the store.

“I wanted something new and refreshing — something totally different,” said owner DeAnna Boyer.

She plans to open a beach and gift shop at the same location at 1 NW U.S. 19. And, she wants to open at least 10 days before scallop season begins on July 1.

“This is happening fast,” Boyer said.

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com.

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