Making Memories and Music at Fleetwood’s on Front Street
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So you walk into Fleetwood’s on Front Street. More likely, you’re welcomed into Fleetwood’s on Front Street. You sit down, relish a view of the ocean, take in the cool memorabilia, enjoy some unique food and classy drinks. It’s cool. Comfortable. Relaxing.
And then this extremely tall, world-renown rock star walks in the room. And guess what? It’s still cool. Comfortable. Relaxing. Because so is he. Mick Fleetwood’s mellow, authentic, classy vibe seems to define his dining room.
“We’re trying to create something people will remember, that is friendly and welcoming,” Mick Fleetwood told me during our chat, saying on his world travels, he’s drawn to restaurants with a warm, open atmosphere, versus a “slick” operation. “When people are traveling, this whole island is about that; they come and they go, so you want to make sure they remember. Like I do when I’m on the road; I remember places that Mom and Dad from the restaurant said, you know, ‘How’re you doing?’ And they have time for you. And you remember an atmosphere; that’s what we hope can be achieved.”
Fleetwood does indeed make time for diners and fans, often greeting them at their tables and having genuine conversations. That’s simply who he is, says General Manager Eric Waddell.
“I think he’s just a unique man; he’s very flamboyant, he’s out there, he’s also very humble, he walks around his restaurant and talks with people,” explains Waddell. “I mean, 45 years-plus playing music, perfecting the art of music, not being involved in just music but other arts, photography. He’s that guy who just keeps going.”
He also makes time for staff behind the scenes, even when traveling and performing around the globe with his iconic rock band, Fleetwood Mac.
“When he’s on tour, we have a direct connection. We can call him at anytime, he makes a lot of decisions. I would say even though he’s not here, he’s still here.” Waddell adds Fleetwood is a lot more involved than people might expect. “He’s the guy who will be texting and emailing at 9:30, 10:00 at night, and then you’re getting emails and texts bright crack-of-dawn early in the morning, and you know he had to have some family time in, so when was he trying to fit all that in, and then go on a world tour too?”
And don’t forget. He IS a rock star. Just ask anyone who attended Fleetwood’s 3rd anniversary bash in August, complete with a Leather and Lace party, Burning Love show with Elvis (performer Darren Lee), rooftop dining and dancing, and a live, outdoor concert from the Mick Fleetwood Blues Band, where they rocked out on the rooftop lanai in the pouring rain! Since they only performed four songs before having to shut down the show and dry off, Fleetwood decided to invite concertgoers back the following night for a bonus concert, inside on the main floor this time.
“They almost blew the roof off,” Waddell laughs. “It was just phenomenal; everybody gave them a standing ovation at the end, and I think everybody really truly walked away with what we wanted to do, and that was make some memories.”
The staff has its own storehouse of memories. Around 17 of the 150 employees have been at Fleetwood’s since the beginning, impressive in an industry that’s no stranger to high turnover. Fleetwood speaks to the restaurant’s inherent sense of community.
“I’m here a lot, and my mum who came here, she passed away recently, but she came here a lot. People that come here, the staff, they know and remember Biddy,” Fleetwood explains. “So it resonates on a local level. It also trickles down; that’s what members of the staff know about. There’s a story to tell, it’s personal.”
Waddell says he encourages his staff to take creative risks, communicate openly, listen to feedback, and foster passion and purpose in every position.
“We embrace creativity, we embrace that different person, we want to pull that passion out from you, we want to build off of it, and we want to learn from it,” says Waddell. “Everybody has a purpose here. I’m no more important than the dishwasher, ‘cause if the dishwasher’s not there, we don’t have clean dishes. We need that person. We need to take care of them, we feed them through the employee meal, we all break bread together and we have a great meal that chef gives to us every day.”
Chef Eric Morrissette was given the creative control to “keep it fresh” and craft innovative dishes. “I can play around every day with something new. They almost promote it more than shy away from it; I couldn’t be more thankful,” says Morrissette, who grew up on the East Coast and started as a morning line cook at Fleetwood’s three years ago. Within six months, he was promoted to Executive Chef.
“A chef should always know what’s going in to all their products,” Morrissette explains, saying he appreciates the freedom that allows him to source products, and research Maui’s bounty of local ingredients first-hand. “I can explore: ‘Hey guys, I’m taking the afternoon off, I’ll be there at 2 p.m.’ Where I can go to Haiku and go stomp around a little bit. And be able to pick and look at these kind of things. If I’m gonna sit here and serve you the food and stand by it 100%, I need to stand by that product as well. And there’s no better way of doing it than going out to the farms and seeing it.”
Morrissette’s menu features appetizers like Pacific oysters, bourbon-glazed pork belly, New Bedford scallop and artisanal cheese and meat boards. Entrees include a 72-hour short rib, grilled Hawaiian Shutome, chicken curry, and a half-rack of Australian lamb. There’s also a kids menu, complete with a creative activity book and crayons. Dinner goes from 5 to 10 p.m., with happy hour (and $1 oysters) from 5 to 6 p.m. Locals can enjoy kama’aina discounts of 15% off every day of the week. There’s also a rooftop sunset ceremony and live entertainment on the lanai, starting at 6 p.m.
Fleetwood’s features some outside-the-box events for the community, including Tarot card readings, a monthly full-moon party with a telescope and lunar expert, a range of charity events, and some new offerings.
“We’re going to try a Movie Monday coming up and see if people will show up,” Waddell says, “and we do our Throwback Thursdays where we have our dance floor and just offer a great environment, a safe environment; we don’t keep it open until midnight — we close down at 10. But you can come here at 7, watch the sunset, have some great cocktails, eat some great food.”
Speaking of great food, there’s something new right outside of Fleetwood’s: an ice-cream booth. Chef Eric keeps it simple, on purpose.
“We’re talking egg yolks, we’re talking sugar, milk, heavy cream, and that’s your base. The rest of it, I use Kula strawberries in my strawberry; we steep the strawberries in the creams and then we blend it that way, so all-natural. I use Tahitian vanilla beans in my vanilla bean ice cream, let ‘em steep, get all that flavor extracted,” Morrissette explains. “There’s nothing that goes in my product that I don’t touch, see, and get as close to as possible. It gives a stamp of approval. I work for Mick Fleetwood; he’s at the top of his game, so it kinda pushes us to be at the top of ours.”
That passion has given Fleetwood’s a presence on Front Street in Lahaina for the past three years, and hopefully, many more to come. I’ve refrained from peppering this article with Fleetwood Mac song references, but will at least allow myself one. You could say managers “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” (It’ll soon be here!)
“This is our island with everybody else. This is our home! We want to be here for some time. Three years? Let’s go 30!” Waddell says they respect both the locals and visitors that influence our island. “There’s a lot of people who come to Maui and spend a lot of money, they bring children, they bring their families, and when you put those kinds of efforts and you put those dreams in our hands, even if just for a night, we better make sure it’s right.”
While leaders are rightfully proud of what they’ve accomplished, they hold themselves to a very high standard and say there’s always room to learn and grow.
“It goes back to challenging each other, it goes back to our boss still out there banging on the drums and doing world tours and that never-give-up attitude,” explains Morrissette. “We all know it’s hard opening a brand-new restaurant, especially a two-floor monster this size, and that’s the big thing: we all get it, we all believe.”
Mr. Fleetwood himself says in sustaining what he calls a “pipe dream” that’s become a big reality, he wants people to feel “at home” and excited about what’s to come. Because at Fleetwood’s, you kind of never know what’s to come, or what rock star you might see around the corner.
“We’re three years in; we feel good,” Fleetwood says. “Special places that become more special, they hang around.”