BY EMMA TAYLOR
Euphemia Haye has served as a staple of fine dining in our community for nearly 50 years. Started by Les Buntin in 1975 and purchased by Ray and D’Arcy Arpke in 1980, the historic restaurant—famous for its dessert loft and exquisite cuisine—caters to locals and visitors from around the globe. Nestled a block from the gulf on Longboat Key at 5540 Gulf of Mexico Dr., Euphemia Haye has served as a momentous destination for special occasions and fond memories for decades.
Amy Whitt has been an employee of the Arpkes for nearly 15 years, and after purchasing the restaurant from them this past December, she is now the owner with plans to continue the eatery’s sparkling legacy.
Whitt was raised in a small town in Minnesota and spent her high school years visiting a friend in the Anna Maria area. Her trips to the sunny beachside town sparked early aspirations of a move to Florida— about 15 years ago, those aspirations became a reality.
She heard through friends that Euphemia was in need of “a new office person” and came on as an administrator, before later taking over as bookkeeper. When the Arpkes decided it was time to retire, Whitt was on the short-list of logical successors.
“They approached me in September of 2020 that they were selling the restaurant. I thought, ‘well, I’m
going to do whatever I can to try and make this happen.’ This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity— you know? A well-established restaurant with the clientele that they have, you just don’t find that anywhere!”, she said excitedly of the initial proposal.
That same month, while the restaurant was closed to reboot before season, Whitt went back to Illinois
and shared the news with her family. “They were super excited for me and offered to help in any way possible to make this a reality. I actually told them about 11 years ago, ‘one day I’m going to buy this place.’ It’s not something new for me that I wanted to do. I had known. I fell in love with it from the get go. I fell in love with the people, their values, their standards, just everything about it. It’s just a family. You know? It was a home. It is a home away from home.”
One thing that Whitt overwhelmingly exudes is her emphasis on the importance of family. She speaks of the entire Euphemia Haye staff as though they’re blood related and expresses genuine care and concern the way only a good den-mother would.
With recent staffing shortages and an unprecedentedly busy year, Whitt has not only employed herself to buss, hostess, and help out wherever needed, but even had her sister and two nephews pitch in while they visited over winter break. It’s apparent that her support system runs deep in both the Euphemia community and her personal life.
“The staff has been wonderful, exceptional. Everyone has stepped up and filled in where needed. They see how committed I am. I’ve been upstairs bussing since December 14th. We needed a busser!”, she laughed with amusement. “I’ve helped in the kitchen. I’ve tried to learn everything I can. I come from a small town and I think the biggest thing for me is family. Ray and D’Arcy are a second set of parents
When asked about any changes she hopes to make to the establishment, Whitt expressed that she’s more concerned with continuing the great standard of freshly crafted food and excellent service that the Arpkes have fostered for the last 40+ years. “You hear that a restaurant has sold to someone, there is that hesitancy and concern that everything will change. When I first got wind that they were looking
to sell, that was my biggest fear. But they didn’t want to sell it to some big-shot outsider. As soon as it was presented, there was a sigh of relief. I was just so happy that they wanted to keep it in ‘the family’.” she said.
Euphemia Haye has been referred to in the kitchen and by locals as ‘The Legacy on Longboat’— a name that solidifies its reputation as a long-established haven for memorable times and delectable cuisine. They have been statewide Hall of Fame winners for the Florida Golden Spoon award every year since ‘sometime in the 1990s’—so long ago that no one could recall the inaugural year.
Chef James Norris took over as Sous Chef in 2011, when the previous position holder retired after being there since 1975. James has served as the Chef de Cuisine for the last three years in collaboration with Ray and will continue heading the kitchen under Whitt’s ownership.
Ray and D’Arcy Arpke live locally and will continue to mentor and assist Whitt for the next year to ensure a smooth transition. With Whitt’s enthusiasm and knowledge, and the closely knit ties of the Euphemia ‘family’, it seems that patrons will continue to enjoy the same magical dining experiences that they have come to expect from Euphemia Haye for the last 41 years.
“They’ve (the Arpkes) raised this baby! This amazing restaurant that people come to for all occasions, from all over. I want to carry that on and make them proud. I want to make sure that people know they can still do that, and that they’re in good hands.”-Amy Whitt