It may have been Frank Gamsky’s greatest feat of salesmanship when he persuaded his wife, Elaine, that they should buy the dilapidated Linger Lodge in 1968.
The Gamskys and their four children were on vacation from their home in Milwaukee when a niece who lived in the Bradenton area called to tell him about Linger Lodge.
Or, as the Bradenton Herald reported in 1993, what was left of it.
The lodge, built in the mid-1940s, long before all the development in East Manatee, started as a log cabin and due to time, neglect and a fire, there wasn’t much left.
But Gamsky, who died Aug. 17, 2023, at 93, saw the potential.
“The wildlife and the hanging moss and the river. Oh, how beautiful. I went back to my wife and told her I could make this place work again. I told her it would be great,’‘ he told the Herald in 1993.
At first, Elaine said no, before relenting and giving Frank two years to make his case.
“If it doesn’t work by then we’ll pull out,’‘ he promised.
Eventually, Gamsky turned Linger Lodge into a restaurant and RV park, and gained a local and national reputation during the 37 years that he owned and operated it.
Al Roker once called Linger Lodge “one of the top five weirdest restaurants in the country,” and Forbes ranked its among the top 10 most unusual places to eat.
Chalk that up to Gamsky’s Americana collections and taxidermy skills, prominently displayed around the restaurant.
Bass, snakes —lots of snakes, a fox, a bobcat and more were among the critters displayed at Linger Lodge.
But not all of the taxidermy was by Gamsky. Some of it was donated, including a bear, a boar and a giant alligator.
“My dad had this way of getting people to gift all kinds of crazy things,” said his daughter, Debra Gamsky Bell.
One of the attractions at Linger Lodge was Frank Gamsky himself, who became friends with his guests through his friendly table-side visits where he told jokes and showed his magic tricks.
Gamsky later said he didn’t envision so much growth coming to East Manatee in 1968, but newer neighborhoods like Tara and Bradenton Woods brought him new customers.
“I didn’t know it was going to grow this fast,’‘ he said in 1996. “I think it’s great that they can come out here and buy nice homes.”
Gamsky found most of the snakes on display at Linger Lodge as road kill.
One time, however, he went to pick up a live rattlesnake. Momentarily distracted, Gamsky took his eye off the snake and suffered a near fatal snakebite.
He spent three days in Manatee Memorial Hospital and used up all the anti-venom in the Bradenton and Sarasota area, Bell said.
The stuffed rattler, and a photo of Frank’s swollen hand, once occupied a spot at Linger Lodge.
That snake bite was no joke, but the truth is that Frank Gamsky was a prankster.
“Would Frank Gamsky pull your leg? Does a rabbit have antlers? At Linger Lodge it does,” the Herald once reported.
In 2004, the Gamskys put Linger Lodge and its 10 acres up for sale. Mike Bennett and his business partner Marvin Kaplan bought it in 2005.
In turn, Linger Loft, an Austrian company, bought Linger Lodge in November 2016. The restaurant closed in July 2020 because of a spike in COVID-19 cases, and stayed closed during the rebuilding of the surrounding RV park, before reopening in August of 2022
That same year, the restaurant was spun off to a new owner, Rita Lewis, while Linger Loft retained ownership of the spruced-up campground.
Through the ownership changes, Gamsky was still a regular at his beloved Linger Lodge, still stopping by there at age 92, Lewis said in May.
He is survived by his children Daniel Gamsky, Debra Warren Bell, Frank David Gamsky and Donna Gamsky and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Public visitation will be 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 23 at Toale Brothers Funeral Home, 912 53rd Ave. W. Bradenton.