Bushey reflects on Key West, 20 years at Rick’s - A man sitting at a table with wine glasses - Bartender

By Kirby Trahan

Fred Bushey is truly one of a kind — with an emphasis on “kind.” With a face that most in the hospitality industry know on a first-name basis, he has earned a reputation for his unique blend of tenacious work habits, combined with an unparalleled composition of kindness. Yet at 47, Fred looks from behind Tree Bar onto Duval Street. Beneath his light grey eyes and patented smile he reflects on 20 years of memories at Rick’s — serving the last 10 of those as general manager for the entire complex. 

“I’ve always appreciated being referred to as ‘hard-working,’” he said. “But being a good father is the most important thing to me.” 

Overseeing eight venues, 18 registers and almost 100 employees, Bushey balances long weeks and late nights with being a devoted husband to his wife Kelly and father to Ryah (8) and Derek (6). 

Bushey arrived in Key West at 27 years old from Hartford, Connecticut and spent the first month and a half meeting locals. In the three years that followed he was a seasonal resident, splitting his time between New England and the Southernmost City. It was not long after making the full-time move that he found himself hanging out “half in the bag” at Rick’s, chatting with a bartender about how they needed good help. That very day, Bushey walked himself into the manager’s office, asked for a job and quickly landed a coveted full time position at Tree bar. 

When asked about overseeing the biggest complex in Key West, Bushey said, “Rick’s has been around over 30 years so it’s a well-oiled machine; it’s just keeping the place up and running! It’s personality management more than anything.” 

It’s also getting home at 5 a.m. on occasion. But Bushey knows he commands a coveted position in Key West. For him, it’s more about the dynamic of family and teamwork at home that make it all work — something he and his wife have learned to balance over the years. 

“My wife Kelly is appreciative of me working the long hours as am I of her being with the kiddos all day,” said Bushey, as another person yells his name from Duval. “The only way to survive is not taking it home. Otherwise it will eat you alive.”

Rick’s is also behind a myriad of fund-raisers in town, with Bushey spearheading most of the campaigns. Coming up is “Cocktails for Animal Tails” during Fantasy Fest to raise money for the SPCA. You can also find him helping his kids run lemonade stands in front of their midtown home to raise money for charity. The same home he is renovating in his “spare time.”  

Bushey reflects on Key West, 20 years at Rick’s - A person and a little girl posing for a picture - Sunglasses

Nickname? Fast Talking Fred 

The best thing about my job is … The people I meet every day. Key West is a melting pot for people to gather and forget about the real world for a while. 

The craziest thing I’ve ever seen at work is … After this long working on lower Duval, everyone’s idea of crazy has become my normal. Anything that stands out can’t be repeated in a family publication! 

If you were to do something completely different than you do now … It would be an A/C repairman. I’d be killing it!

Life motto … Treat others the way you want to be treated. 

My idea of perfect happiness is … spending a quiet day with Kelly at the sandbar with a cold drink in my hand. Watching our kids play in the water and look for shells on the beach. When you look out on the horizon and can’t tell where the water ends and sky begins. 

I most dislike … the constant negativity and open hate that some people are showing on social media. 

After a long night of work I pour myself … a big Guinness and maybe a shot of Jameson! 

Something no one knows about Mark Rossi is … the man actually has a pretty big heart and is very loyal to those close to him. 

Would you rather have Mark’s bank account or a full head of hair? I’ve lived without hair for awhile, so I’ll take the money. 

If invisible in Key West I would … head straight for the Mel Fisher museum’s treasure room! 

If I told a lie it would be … to try and explain why the hell all of that Mel Fisher treasure is hidden in my house! 

The three things I cannot live without are … Family, good friends and strong coffee! 

One thing still on my Keys bucket list is … overnight camping during a full moon at the Dry Tortugas. 

I can never refuse … a good strong Café Con Leche in the morning. 

My favorite guilty pleasure is … ice cream! Either a hot fudge sundae from DQ, coconut ice cream from Flamingo crossing or hand rolled with fruit from Tropical Vibes! 

If I could have lunch with one famous person … It would be Ben Franklin and I’d ask him his opinion on our current state of the nation compared to the vision that was fought for and set forth. 

The best advice I could give someone starting out in the hosptitality industry in Key West is … To always show up, never refuse a shift and escape the hard-hitting party scene. 

Working behind a bar has taught me … That I have to turn it off. The (home and work) worlds don’t mix. However I do find that my kids will get entertained by the same things drunk people do. Paper airplanes, bar tricks…

My autobiography would be titled … “A life worth living!” 

Will you live in Key West forever? “It’s always been so transient, with so many people come and gone since I’ve been here. It always felt like the party’s gonna end so I keep celebrating until it’s over … or until someone tells me it’s over.” 

When I go, I will go … fingers crossed, long after my kids have grown and established lives with families of their own. I want to be that quirky old grandpa my grandkids aren’t sure how to handle. 

 

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