FORT PIERCE — Rick Reed, owner of Sweeties Diner in Fort Pierce, seems to be very much a “see a need and fill it” kind of guy. Famous (or infamous) for his marquee messages, there is a lot more to the man than just his outrageous signs.
Mr. Reed is a Fort Pierce native who, in addition to owning Sweeties, is involved in the community and in city politics, the main source of fodder for his marquee signs.
But for all his bluster, Mr. Reed is a generous supporter of the Fort Pierce community and puts his money where his mouth is. Since March 4, 2020, Sweeties, in partnership with the local NAACP, has provided the community with over 200,000 free meals. His concern for the school children who were affected by pandemic-related school closures prompted him to provide free meals for kids three days a week off the regular diner menu. On a recent Wednesday alone, 50 free meals were provided to families in need. Mr. Reed adds that he will continue to help feed the local community as long as there is a need.
While Mr. Reed is certainly proud to be able to assist local families and organizations, he is no glory-seeker. “To whom much is given, much is required”, he quotes from the Gospel of Luke. “It’s not a burden”, he says, “but a privilege to serve.”
Mr. Reed and his business partners donated a large sum of money to have a kayak park built on the waterfront near St. Andrews School, providing easy access to the water for kayakers and paddlers. The plan turned into quite the political skirmish between the city and Mr. Reed, but the park survived and opened to the public in July 2019.
Mr. Reed serves on the board of the local chapter of NAACP and describes himself as a friend to the often overlooked and underserved Black community in Fort Pierce. He has been described by one city commissioner as being “a man with a good heart.”
During the shutdown caused by the COVID19 pandemic, which impacted both entertainment and the restaurant business nationwide, Mr. Reed’s thoughts turned to finding a safe way for families to get out of the house and have some form of entertainment. That was the inspiration for the drive-in movies that still take place in Sweeties parking lot 2 nights a week. The movie is free, and the diner even provides a car side food service, a throwback to the glory days of the drive-in. Audio is provided through the car radio. Movies are shown on Wednesday and Saturday evenings, and are all family-friendly, with the exception perhaps of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The latter is a more mature, audience-participatory event and Mr. Reed states that people were out of their cars and dancing to the time-warp.
More recently, Mr. Reed has begun offering a food delivery service from Sweeties to residents within a 15-to-20-minute drive from the restaurant. Called ‘The Gobbler’, delivery drivers are hired directly by Sweeties, creating additional jobs in the community. Mr. Reed explains that Sweeties has a large number of elderly patrons who may not have an easy time getting around. With the food delivery service, a patron can call in an order and specify a time they would like to have it delivered. The Gobbler driver will make sure the food is delivered hot and fresh at the appointed time.
There have been several iterations of restaurants in the space now occupied by Sweeties, none of which seemed able to make a go of it for very long. Sweeties is now in its 5th year, providing good food and good service at good prices, all in a clean and friendly environment. This is no doubt a reflection of Mr. Reed’s business-minded and community-focused leadership. When asked what drives him to keep improving Sweeties and the local community, he answers simply, “Fort Pierce is my family.”
To find out more about Sweeties, view their online menu, or learn how to place an order for delivery check out their website at - sweetiesdiner.com.