When the economy gives building contractors a lemon, some make lemonade. Clayton Brashear on the other hand has made margaritas and pina coladas and built Texas’ biggest beach bar to serve them. Last June Brashear opened Clayton’s Resort, a restored 1950s private beach retreat, and Clayton’s Bar & Grill on South Padre Island, opposite the World Birding Center. The Brownsville native and longtime island contractor positioned his beach bar to appeal to Valley residents rather than tourists.
Brashear has successfully linked the ambiance of the island 50 years ago–before the causeway existed–with 21st century beach culture. In 1958, an oil supply company had built a 10-room lodge designed for entertaining oil company officials and their families. At that time, a caliche road ran down the middle of South Padre and no high rises interrupted the horizon. Photos from the 60s and 70s show fishing parties, kids in the pool and mariachis entertaining a small group after supper at the retreat.
Brashear, who moved to the island in 1979, bought the inconspicuous property 12 years ago. Last year as his construction company felt the effects of the recession, he decided to develop the retreat and its beachfront property into a Valley family fun destination. The 1.2 million people within 90 minutes of the beach form his market, one that Brashear thought was hungry for what he could supply.
“The Valley comes to the beach all summer and I felt it needed a place right on the beach. People could just come for the day and bring their kids, sit on the beach and come into the bar, have a drink and eat lunch,” he said.
In fact Brashear said the response has been exceptional.
“The Valley was so eager for something new. Ninety percent of our customers are from the Valley.” Tourists tend to gravitate to the center of town, not to the north end.
Brashear, 50, decided to have the biggest beach bar in Texas. That required researching the beach bars on the entire Texas coast, Corpus Christi to Galveston. Someone had to do it. Then Brashear designed the high-roofed, wood-floored, spacious dining and drinking area that has great views and a tropical, friendly ambiance. Over fish tacos or ceviche, sipping a turbo pina colada, customers relax as laughing gulls cruise past and the smell the coconut sunscreen rides on the southeast trade wind. The moose head draped in sunglasses and party beads over the bar plus the signs encouraging readers to Live a Beach Life entice people into a beach mindset. Beach volleyball courts attract the marginally athletic.
For more of this story by Eileen Mattei, pick up a copy of the May edition of Valley Business Report, on news stands now, or visit the “Current & Past Issues” tab on this Web site.