Terrence “Rocky” Leary is thrilled to be a part of the Nocatee community. He and his wife, Lisa, and their two children, Mikey, 8, and Desiree, 13, relocated to Ponte Vedra to get away from the cold winter months in Vermont. Last year, Rocky was hired to open a pizza place in Nocatee’s Splash Water Park. Rocky’s Pizza just marked its one-year anniversary on Feb. 17. Leary learned how to make pizza from a local pizzeria in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he was born and raised. In the early 90s, he took his passion for pizza and launched Rocky’s N.Y. Pizza in Vermont which had three locations. When he moved to Nocatee, he was selected to open the pizzeria from a number of potential candidates. Now, Rocky’s Pizza at Spalsh Water Park has become a fixture and he’s known as “the neighborhood pizza guy.” Nocatee residents can enjoy the family-operated New York-style brick oven pizza and other offerings such as calzones, “Rocky Rolls”, hot dogs, salads, wraps and ice cream on a seasonal basis from St. Patrick’s Day to Christmas.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in Brooklyn, New York. When I was 28 years old, I moved to Vermont. Both myself and my wife were social workers and before we went into the pizza business. Then, we continued doing social work in Vermont.
When I lived in Vermont, I worked with foster kids and children with special needs for 10 years and that was my full-time job on top of the restaurants. I loved giving back; that’s the name of the game, I think — be of service to others.
We were involved in a charity up there called Camp Ta-Kum-Ta and we would make pizzas there at the camp. I still make pizzas there every August. Vermont was great and I love being down here.
Do you still own the restaurants in Vermont?
I had a five-year deal with my guys to buy it and the five-year deal turned into a four-year deal when they gave me a five-year contract. So they own [the restaurants] now.
When did you move to Nocatee?
Four years ago in 2012.
What do you like about the area?
It’s beautiful — the ocean, the people. It’s such a new community that you get to meet different people every day which is the beauty of it and to be the only food vendor in here, you’re guaranteed to meet them. I’m the neighborhood pizza guy.
Are you looking forward to your second season?
We’re excited about this season because now we know what to expect. Last year, we didn’t know and now there’s 500 more homes, so there’s going to be more people here. We feel like we can take care of volume.
It’s really a family business. My wife is here. My daughter wipes down tables a couple of hours a day. We love it. It’s fun, but it is work. It’s all in staying ahead and getting good people. I’m blessed by the opportunity. The PARC Group has been excellent to me; whatever I need, they make it happen. So that’s great.
I see myself being here a long time — especially with an 8-year-old and a 13-year-old. When I take them to work, they go to the pool.