Whether it’s serving up a great big breakfast at the Stuffed Pig, relaxing on the water with his friends, or working to make Marathon a better city, Mike Cinque stays busy living up to his reputation as a local legend.
Known for his can-do attitude, the famous City Councilman once found a stolen helicopter in his front yard, was a driving force behind making Marathon a City, and has made his home in the Heart of the Florida Keys for over 30 years.
He’s also your Neighbor of the Week.
The life story of Mike reads like an ancient mangrove’s tangled roots—it’s impossible to separate the facts from the legend. Here’s our best effort.
The legend of Cinque
Growing up in Patterson, New Jersey, young Mike entered the world as an inquisitive boy who often kept busy pestering his industrial engineer father. Able to operate anything in a machine shop by the time he was 12, Mike’s youthful days were filled with wonder and a love for modern technology. During high school, he split his focus between twin interests in football and mechanics. In his spare time, he enjoyed hunting and fishing with his brothers Louis, Alfonso, and Vince, and his sister Madeline.
Hitchhiking to Florida at age 18, Mike escaped the Garden State in a fit of rampant wanderlust. Leaving New Jersey in 1973, he said good-bye to his family, canceled his enrollment at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and headed south to the Keys.
Knocking on doors for odd jobs and sleeping in random backyards, Mike’s new life in the Keys was a whirlwind of ups and downs. Starting in Key Largo, he worked in construction, and then moved to Marathon to run one of the very first gas stations in town. Eventually taken under the wing of Key Colony Beach businessman Matt Kibbler, Mike found a job at the tiny Key Colony Motel and was eventually promoted to night manager. However, despite his newfound success, he still slept in an old RV at the Jolly Roger Travel Park on Grassy Key. He rode his dirt bike and regularly basked in the sun along the stretch of sand popularly known as “nudie beach.” To alleviate random bouts of island fever, he remembers shooting skeet at Coco Plum Beach and firing target pistols into old junk cars on Boot Key.
Indeed, for young Mike, the world of the Middle Keys was a magical place.
A self made man
In a strange but true fact, Mike started one of the First Concrete Pouring companies in South Florida. Working as a mason, he completed the majority of the large building projects during the construction boom of the 1980’s. He even built the Keys first cable T.V. network! Selling his business soon after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Mike became partners in a tiny restaurant named the Stuffed Pig—the rest is history.
Making Marathon a City
Harassed by the Monroe County Board of Commissioners after installing an outdoor patio at his restaurant, Mike took matters into his own hands and promoted an independent Marathon, Florida. Combined with the efforts of other Marathon residents, his city-wide banner campaign gained enough support to warrant a referendum on November ballot in 1999. The message: Welcome to the Future City of Marathon. “We couldn’t have done it without all the support from the community,” says Mike. “A lot of people deserve credit, especially Alan Fletcher – and a number of other Marathon revolutionaries.”