by J. Brooks Terry
Interest in downtown is growing and local business owners are starting to take notice.
Robert Humphries, who currently manages his family’s Shogun Steak and Seafood in Orange Park, not only wants to open an authentic Japanese eatery in the heart of downtown, he wants to do it now.
“At this point, I’m waiting to get a copy of some blue prints that I’m having drawn up,” said Humphries. “After that, I’ll need to figure out what sort of square footage I’ll be working with and then I’ll have to settle on a location before I can really move forward. Within three weeks I should be in pretty good position.”
Humphries is no stranger to the downtown restaurant business. Prior to his current venture, his family owned and operated Ieasyu on Duval Street, which ultimately closed its doors after a fire caused significant damage to the building in the early 1980s.
“We were the first people to really establish a strong Japanese business in Jacksonville in 1971,” said Humphries, a New York City native. “It was amazing for me to see people literally line up outside of the door to eat lunch at my father’s restaurant.”
Humphries, who has extensive culinary training, plans to reuse the Ieasyu name once he opens for business.
“We still have legal rights to the name,” he said. “I feel like this is truly going to be the reopening of my father’s restaurant. I don’t think Jacksonville has ever experienced the kind of thing that I want to do.”
While recognizing the healthy demand of a lunchtime restaurant, Humphries hasn’t discounted the potential for an evening downtown.
“Dinner is going to be the primary feature. It’s my passion,” said Humphries, who is eying spaces that can accommodate a 75-seat capacity. “But with the lunch business down here, alone, you could make a mint. It’s beautiful down here. I’m a city kid and I definitely love the hype that surrounds it. I’m looking forward to coming back to downtown.”