Beach Road Chicken Dinners is becoming Beach Road Fish House & Oyster Bar and its menu will change to add regional fish and other items.
But the new owners won’t drop the mainstay fried chicken, creamed peas, biscuits and gravy.
The 80-year-old business at 4132 Atlantic Blvd. also will be remodeled.
Owners Ken and Tena Ferger turned the keys over to Nathan Stuart and Margo Klar, a husband-and-wife restaurant team that operates the OP Fish House & Oyster Bar in Orange Park and the Seafood Kitchen in Atlantic Beach.
They also have a licensing agreement with the Aiken Fish House in Aiken, South Carolina.
On May 23, Stuart registered the Beach Road Fish House & Oyster Bar Inc. name with the state, listing Nathan Stuart as president, Margo as vice president and secretary.
Stuart and Klar bought the business but not the property. They signed a three-year lease, starting June 24, with an option to buy the building and the parking lot, Ken Ferger said.
The dining room is closed for renovations but customers can phone in takeout orders from the Beach Road Chicken Dinners menu, Ferger said. Stuart expects to reopen the dining room, with new furniture and floors, in September. Much of the kitchen equipment will be replaced.
The dining room still will have the look of a family-owned roadside restaurant of the 1940s era, with an added patio for more seating. It will have a small stage for solo or duo musical acts.
Stuart said a similar setup at his Orange Park restaurant is popular.
He anticipates up to 60 employees.
Beach Road Chicken Dinners became a landmark with a simple menu featuring homestyle cooking focused on fried chicken and sides.
Stuart said the menu will be expanded to include made-from-scratch items to appeal to a wider clientele.
Most will include fresh regional fish dishes.
The new restaurant will start with a beer and wine license with hopes of adding liquor.
New menu items will cater to health-conscious consumers who don’t eat battered fried foods, Stuart said.
Stuart insists on cooking with products grown and acquired in the area. “We use the best product available. It’s fresh and local seafood. We don’t serve salmon or cod,” Stuart said.
An exception will be scallops from New England.
Stuart’s grandfather, Louis, owned Intracoastal Fisheries, one of Jacksonville’s first fish markets. In 1985, Russell Stuart, Nathan’s father, bought Seafood Kitchen.
The father and son continue to operate that restaurant.
It was respect for Beach Road Chicken Dinners’ heritage that made Stuart want to take it over.
“People don’t realize that I bought it to save it, not change it,” Stuart said. “I want to keep that place a part of Jacksonville.”
This is not Stuart’s first major restaurant remodel. The OP Fish House & Oyster Bar building was constructed in 1905 as a residence. Stuart bought it in July 2018 and opened it in December.
Ferger sold the restaurant so he could retire. When he sells the additional acreage he intends to spend time traveling with his wife.
There was no celebration marking the last day of the Fergers’ ownership June 23.
“We brought in some close neighbors and friends in on Thursday (June 20) for a ‘Last Supper.’ On Sunday I walked around the dining room telling people goodbye,” he said.