tony-dee-charlie-mielke-magic-touch-the-drive-0The dynamic duo, Tony Dee and Charlie Mielke, will return to The Drive after a long absence. The business partners and longtime friends have been credited with putting Wilton Manors on the map when they opened up Chardees in 1990.


The dynamic duo, Tony Dee and Charlie Mielke, will return to The Drive after a long absence. The business partners and longtime friends have been credited with putting Wilton Manors on the map when they opened up Chardees in 1990.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Chardees, it was the first gay business to open on what was then, a desolate Wilton Drive. The restaurant/bar/club was the place to see and be seen.

“When we arrived on the Drive, the only thing we could find was tumbleweed and for rent signs on every building,” said Charlie. “Chardees quickly became a landmark, it was an anchor for Wilton Manors and the Drive.”

Chardees was not the first business that Dee and Charlie had together. The two met at a club on Long Island 40 years ago and became great friends. They started a successful catering business in Huntington, New York and soon became interested in South Florida. Dee has been in the business of commercial real estate in New York and Florida for many decades, two areas that the business partners traveled between for many years.

tony-dee-charlie-mielke-magic-touch-the-drive-1In 1983, Dee and Charlie built 60 condos in Coral Springs called Waters Edge.

“It was completed and sold in less than a year,” said Dee.

They took a break and began flipping houses until 1990, when they opened Chardees.

The popular establishment was the very start of Wilton Drive becoming the amazing gayborhood it is today. The name Chardees was a combination of “Charlie” and “Dee” – Tony’s last name. It became known worldwide as the place to be.

“It became internationally famous quickly,” said Dee.

“People vacationing in Paris, London, Rome would sit in local gay establishments and when they would mention they were from Fort Lauderdale, people would ask about Chardees,” Charlie added.

The reason for its popularity? That could be chalked up to the winning formula of over-the-top entertainers, unique special events and the longstanding business partnership of the two owners.

Performers like Eartha Kitt, Jennifer Holliday, The Glenn Miller Orchestra and Jimmy James have all graced the stage at Chardees. Special annual events like Christmas in July always drew crowds to the fun place.

“We had 15 Christmas trees . . . it was truly a fairy land,” joked Charlie.

Years later, Georgie’s Alibi opened up across the street.

“It was like passing a torch,” said Charlie. “George is a good friend of mine.”

Charlie Mielke left Chardees late 1991 to move back North with his partner. Dee became the sole proprietor and continued the business the partners built together.

The fun events continued at the establishment. In 1992, Chardees hosted a fabulous over-the-top wedding for Dee and his late partner Roy Rinicker.

“The house was packed,” said Dee. “It was like a straight wedding with two guys in tuxes and tails.”

In 1995, Dee sold Chardees to the late Don Hazlett who kept it going for another 10 years, until it was sold again and closed soon after.

“Later, the dynamic Jackson Padgett and Mark Negrete opened Bill’s Filling Station and became my tenant in what used to be known as Chardees,” Dee explained. “Their Alibi is directly across the street.”

In 2003, Dee purchased the Schubert Resort in Victoria Park, which he sold six months ago.

“My years at The Schubert were wonderful,” said Dee. “I met dynamic people from all over the world.”

Tinseltown took notice of the attractive property – Will Smith filmed portions of the movie “Ali” at the resort and the sequel to “Another Gay Movie– “Gays Gone Wild” was also filmed there.

“Dee did a two minute cameo, that ended up on the floor of the editing room,” Charlie joked.

During his years at the Schubert, Dee asked Charlie to return to Florida to assist in helping the Schubert take off. Once again the “Dynamic Duo” worked their magic!

“It is the most beautiful property imaginable,” Charlie said. “The rooms are beyond compare to this day.”

When Dee sold the property, he travelled extensively. Soon, however, he became bored and luckily, an exciting real estate proposition came his way. . .Tropics Restaurant and Bars on Wilton Drive!

Charlie and Dee’s nephew Steven informed Dee that Tropics was available and he was very interested.

Dee purchased the property that Tropics Restaurant is located on and Charlie and Steven purchased the restaurant. They take possession of the property on January 23.

tony-dee-charlie-mielke-magic-touch-the-drive-2“I am continuously being told that Dee and I are the ‘Dynamic Duo’ of Wilton Drive and here we go again, said Charlie.

Dee is the largest single holder of real estate property in Wilton Manors and said that he finds it amusing that it only took him twenty years to get from one side of the street to the other.

Charlie and Steven are extremely excited about Tropics Restaurant and Bars. Tune in next week for a feature on their plans for the well-known restaurant and bar.