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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2000:01:01 00:00:27

Ellie Occulto, left, co-owns Snapper’s Bar and Grill with Lori Buckley.

Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2000:01:01 00:00:25

Outside of Snapper’s Bar and Grill, customers are greeted by a large wooden snapping turtle.

For business partners and friends Lori Buckley and Ellie Occulto, opening Snapper’s Bar and Grill was a way to revive their fun memories at Lake Winola.

Buckley, who moved to Lake Winola in 1999, and Occulto, who was born and raised there, hung out at the space on Route 307 when it was the East Bay. Over the years, the building housed different establishments like Da Vinci’s, but most recently, Lil’s Bar and Grill.

Buckley and her husband noticed the vacant building over the past few years, and similarly, so did Occulto and her husband. Knowing its potential, both wanted to buy it and open a restaurant.

When they learned of each other’s plans, they joined forces and pooled their resources: Occulto’s many years of experience in catering, and the Buckley family construction business, Winola Construction Corporation.

“We saw an opportunity knocking at our door, and we decided to answer,” Occulto said.

The idea behind Snapper’s was to bring a hometown, casual restaurant with a lake theme to the Lake Winola community.

Their plans came together last Monday when Snapper’s held its soft opening. Despite having to close for poor weather the following day, Buckley said the restaurant has been doing well and seeing a lot of customers who are curious about the new business.

There was a need in the Lake Winola area for a business like Snapper’s, Buckley said.

“We felt that in this area, we needed a nice family restaurant because there isn’t really one around here,” Buckley said.

A large wooden sign with a snapping turtle on the outside greets customers as they walk in. Inside, a boat and other lake-themed decor hang on the walls, and a fish tank sits between the bar and dining area.

Snapper’s is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Its liquor license is pending, and once granted, the restaurant will have later hours, Buckley said.

The hearing for the liquor license is scheduled for Feb. 20.

The menu offers a variety of choices, from pizza, hoagies and chicken wings to New York strip steak and shrimp scampi entrees. Eventually, Buckley and Occulto want to add specials such as a seafood night with lobster and clams.

When the weather improves, they will add patio seating and roast pigs outdoors.

Takeout options are also available.

Occulto said she’s glad to have an opportunity to bring something to the Lake Winola community that others can enjoy just like she once did.

“It’s like hometown where everyone knows your name, like the old ‘Cheers’ bar. That’s exactly what we’re looking for,” she said. “We want to treat people how we want to get treated. It’s a hometown restaurant, nothing classy, nothing fancy, we just want people to feel comfortable.”

Buckley hopes the restaurant can attract more people to the Lake Winola area, which she believes is a “nice little community.”

“There’s a lot of things people don’t know that go on up here,” she said, noting events like parades and the annual carnival. “It can bring more people up to the lake, knowing there’s a nice family restaurant that they can feel comfortable bringing their kids to.”

“I just hope people enjoy coming here as much as we liked coming here, and my family back in the earlier days,” she added. “I just want this place to continue on. It was sad that it sat for almost three years.”

Buckley and Occulto plan to hold a grand opening eventually, but a date has not been set yet, as they want to work out any kinks first. Until then, customers are still welcome to dine at Snapper’s during its regular business hours.

“We just appreciate anyone stopping in to give us a try and we hope we do the community justice,” Occulto said.

For more information about Snapper’s Bar and Grill, call 570-378-1000.