Parsons Seafood back in business after two months

Kayla Smith, Mike Parsons and Cindy Parsons at their Parsons Seafood Restaurant that opens Friday in Neptune Beach.
Kayla Smith, Mike Parsons and Cindy Parsons at their Parsons Seafood Restaurant that opens Friday in Neptune Beach.
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Customers who hugged Mike and Cindy Parsons and their family goodbye when Parsons Seafood Restaurant closed Aug. 24 in Jacksonville Beach will be able to welcome them back to the business over the next week.

The family intends to open a 100-seat Parsons Seafood Restaurant this week in Neptune Beach and Parsons Seafood Express in the Regency Square Mall food court Tuesday.

“That was sad thinking this was going to be the end of it,” Cindy Parsons said of the leased Jacksonville Beach location closing, coming after prohibitive maintenance costs and her breast cancer diagnosis.

Parsons wasn’t sure when the Jacksonville Beach restaurant closed that it would open again. Then circumstances changed.

“Everything just kind of fell in our lap,” he said.

The Neptune Beach location in the Shoppes of Summer Sands, at 1451 Atlantic Blvd., became available. And Michael Parsons’ son Sean, who recently moved to the Arlington area, learned of the Regency Square food-court possibility.

“I noticed the mall is having a bit of a comeback,” Michael Parsons said.

Just a few of the food-court locations are leased, but at least one more — Dogs Gone Wild, a hot-dog vendor — will open soon.

Parsons Seafood Restaurant has a long history in several Jacksonville locations, including a spot near Regency Square in the late 1990s.

Parsons is letting former customers, especially auto dealerships, know about the new spot.

Regency Square, at 9501 Arlington Expressway, is almost 50 years old and, as an aging mall, watched tenants and customers move on to newer places. It sold in 2013.

New owners consolidated the retail stores into the East Mall and leased the West Mall to International Décor Outlet, which intends to rent spaces to home-improvement and design stores. The former Belk department-store building was sold to Impact Church.

In fact, IDO mall property manager Sondra Anderson, also former administrative assistant at Regency Square, is the owner of Dogs Gone Wild.

Michael Parsons said it was a deal he couldn’t pass up — more than two months of free rent.

He’s trying to recruit friends in the business to open there, too. “I really think it’s going to do real well,” he said.

Sean Parsons will run the food court location.

The menu includes fish, clam strips, deviled crabs, coco shrimp, calamari or 20-piece shrimp baskets for $7.99 and combination baskets at $8.99, with sides $1 extra. Sides on their own cost $1.99 and include okra, onion rings, baked potato, french fries and grits.

The menu might expand the first of the year.

Cindy Parsons emphasizes the seafood will be prepared upon order.

She said a lot of their Jacksonville Beach customers live in the Regency area and they are happy to have the restaurant closer. It will open during mall hours.

The Neptune Beach restaurant plans a grand opening at 11 a.m. Friday. It will operate 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, also offering beer and wine. An outside deck should open in a few weeks.

The Parsons name is a familiar one in the seafood restaurant industry.

Parsons’ father, Gene, bought and opened Parsons Seafood Restaurant in 1966 in Mayport, selling it 17 years later. It closed in 1992.

Through the years, the Parsons family opened and closed restaurants in several locations.

In Jacksonville Beach, Parsons’ brother, Travis, opened the former Junkyard Café about 1992. It became Parsons in 1996 after the addition of a relocated house.

That’s where Michael and Cindy, each with three children, met. He started working as a cook for Travis in 2000 and she was working there as a waitress. They’ve been together since 2002.

They married in March this year, and in May she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She hasn’t been able to work since then, but is involved in creating and running the businesses.

The entire business is a family one in which available members work where they’re needed.

Parsons’ 82-year-old father, the business founder, remains involved by overseeing some of the recipes. He prepares the coleslaw and the hush puppies.

Michael and Cindy Parsons and her daughter Kayla Smith own the two newest ventures.

Also continuing to work is the Parsons sign at the food court. After hanging on the exterior of the Mandarin and Jacksonville Beach restaurants, it made the trip inside to Regency Square Mall.

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