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Gulf & Main Magazine

Skip One Seafood Owner: Irma Causes Shrimp to Show Up in Droves

Dec 11, 2017 10:28AM ● By Kevin

Large Stone Crab. Photo courtesy of Wesley B. on Yelp.

Skip One Seafood has been in business in Fort Myers for 30 years, owned and operated by Dennis Henderson, a 40-year veteran to the seafood industry. In those 40 years, he's never seen this much shrimp, which he said is primarily due to Hurricane Irma.

"I had a boat come in recently that had 80,000 pounds of shrimp on it," he said. "A whole fleet didn't used to do that." In fact, he brought in 400,000 pounds of shrimp the week prior to Thanksgiving. He expects to bring in double that by Christmas.

According to its website, Skip One Seafood Restaurant was named after a fishing boat owned by the market’s original owner back in the 1960s. Today, the restaurant owes its popularity to the harvest of its owner’s fleet; Henderson and his partner own the biggest shrimp boat fleet in Florida. Their trawlers unload nearby, at their Fort Myers Beach packing house.

The fleet was once made up of 26 boats at its largest. Today, it has slimmed down to 13, although it is still considered the largest in the area.

Henderson said he strives to have the best and freshest local products available. He also deals outside of the state, including Texas. Irma itself did not do any major damage to his business, just a loss of power, which caused them to shut down a few days.

Wild caught Florida shrimp is known as “pink gold,” the website says. "It’s natural, fresh and flash frozen right out of the nets. The flavor is salty/sweet, and the texture is appealing." Every shrimp platter served at Skip One is hand peeled and deveined the day it is served.

Aside from bringing in shrimp, part of the everyday process for Henderson is making sure he buys the right products, not the cheapest.

"Most of the products are from the gulf, so we don't buy the cheap stuff, we buy the better products," he said. "We could find a lot of stuff cheaper, but it wouldn't have the flavor or the taste."

A lot of the stuff he sells "comes right off my boat to your throat," as he puts it, and business is booming. Every day is getting busier. Henderson reported they are averaging serving 500 meals per day.

About 85 percent of the shrimp Americans eat is from Asia or South America, where it has been raised in chemically treated ponds, the website says. "This sad fact also applies to most upscale waterfront locations; few are honest about the origin of their shrimp."

The operation is truly a family effort, with his daughter serving as the restaurant secretary, two granddaughters serving as servers and one granddaughter serving as the hostess.

"I was eating in there about a month ago and the waitress comes over ... she's worked here for over 20 years ... and told me some customers in the restaurant were wondering, 'What's going to happen to this place after you die?'" Henderson said. "I told them, 'I assure you, my wife, my kids, my grandkids ... somebody will run here. I'm not going any place."

And he's not retiring "from shrimpin'" anytime soon. Henderson said too many people work for him to retire that he wouldn't know what to do.

"I really stay down there to really make sure that they all have jobs to continue on," he said.

Henderson has worked in Florida’s shrimp industry since he was a boy unloading boats for the fish houses, according to his website. His father was a welder who worked on docks and boats. As he grew, he followed his father’s example and started his own boat welding and repair business.

In time, he and two partners began buying their own boats, embarking on their journey into the $70-million industry of shrimping. Henderson has worked with the San Carlos shrimp fleet all of his life. According to his website, he’s "committed to serving his customers fresh, healthful seafood and promoting the American shrimp industry as a whole."

A restaurant expansion was in the plans, but Henderson's not quite sure if and when it will occur. After buying the property back, he was working to put in a new west room to make the restaurant larger, in addition to free-standing room.

The restaurant has a 4.3 out of 5 star rating on its Facebook page.

"Love the coconut shrimp and grouper," said Helen Surmont, who gave the restaurant a 5-star review. "Also love the atmosphere in the side room. We like to go into the store section and purchase seafood, seasonings and other things we might need to duplicate the delicious meals we just ate. Always take our visitors there."

Regardless of the future, Henderson is appreciative of his past.

"About 95 out of 100 restaurants fail," he said. "We've been around for 30 years, we must be doing something right."

The restaurant is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., while the market operates daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is located at 15820 S. Tamiami Trail in Fort Myers.