Frenchy’s owner donates $100,000 to start scholarship fund


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Scholarship will help students working their way through college

Michael Preston, owner of Frenchy’s restaurants in Clearwater and Dunedin, has donated $100,000 to the St. Petersburg College Foundation in order to help people working their way through college.

"So many people I’ve worked with over the years are people who have full time jobs and are taking classes. I give them credit for making time to do it," Preston said recently in an interview. "That takes time, effort and expense. It’s taxing for them to pay for tuition and the books."

Preston himself studied at a community college in Ann Arbor, Mich., after graduating high school. He moved to Florida in the 1970s and took a few classes at St. Petersburg College’s Clearwater campus while working in the restaurant industry.

"It was local and affordable," he recalled. "It made sense for me. I was always working, so it’s not like I could go to school full time."

The endowment will fund the Frenchy’s Family of Restaurants and Businesses Scholarship Fund, which is expected to offer five scholarships a year. Eligible students may be enrolled in any SPC program with a minimum GPA of 2.5, but preference will be given to those enrolled in the Hospitality/Tourism program of study. Preston is pleased to hear some of his employees are thinking of applying for the scholarship.

After graduating high school, Preston and some friends vacationed in Clearwater Beach. He soon decided Florida’s sunny west coast was going to be his new home and got a job at a local restaurant as a dishwasher. He spent eight years learning every job in the restaurant industry and moving up the ranks to a manager. In 1981, Preston opened his own restaurant, Frenchy’s Original Cafe in Clearwater Beach. Almost forty years and seven locations later, the restaurant is still going. Frenchy’s, like all restaurants, have suffered financially from the effects of COVID-19. But Preston says that’s why scholarships for education matter even more now. Hourly employees may have lost jobs or seen paychecks decrease, but an SPC education gives them a competitive edge in the job market.

Preston said he’s glad he’s now in a position to help.

"I’m fortunate to be able to do this," Preston said. "I’m a local guy, and I’m all for helping the community."