The corner of South Second and Ash streets was the longtime home of a boat repair and marine supply business. It’s still The Boat House, but after the building’s complete renovation and upgrade, it’s shrimp and grits being fixed up instead of outboard motors.
The restaurant is the creation of developer Spurgeon Richardson and Chet Huntley, who identifies himself as “the restaurant guy” of the partnership. It’s now serving customers in a relaxed dining room bedecked with images of locals known to the community.
Huntley said the Boat House is the 16th restaurant he has opened, most of which have been in the Atlanta area, working with high-profile chefs such as Emeril Lagasse and being part of Buckhead Life Restaurant Group. He said he is not new to Amelia Island, as his family has a house here.
“I’ve been coming down here for 30 years,” he said standing amid the bustle of a “soft opening event” that served teachers, police officers, and firefighters. “But I didn’t want to work where I play.” He said Richardson came to him with the idea to reimagine the old boat repair shop into a restaurant.
“Spurgeon and I made rough drawings of what we wanted the layout to be, what the restaurant would look like,” Huntley said. “They were very much alike.” He said that there were some ideas of what to name the new restaurant, but that, after walking around the property, seeing the view of the Fernandina Harbor Marina and realizing the history of the building, he and Richardson knew “The Boat House” had to stay.
Huntley said he goes to restaurants all over the island, from T-Rays for burgers to Pogo’s Kitchen for a high-end dinner, and wants the Boat House to be somewhere between them, “a place that’s never obtrusive.”
“There are a lot of great places here,” he said. “I don’t feel like I’m in competition with them. I am in competition with myself.”
The Boat House will not have a “style” of food it serves, Huntley said, “just good food.” He said there will be, of course, fresh seafood, as well as casual choices like chicken wings (brined and smoked).
“We will make it for Fernandina, with hints of Charleston and New Orleans,” he said. “I like a little bit of heat and spice. We will have a diverse menu, with just good food, and a great wine list at a great price.” The restaurant will seat 170 people indoors and out, featuring a patio complete with an outdoor stage for live music.
“We will have something for everyone, tourists and locals, from those who want high-end food to casual,” Huntley said. “I don’t want to label it. I just serve love in a bowl.”