Soon the smell of frying shrimp will replace that of wet paint in the dining area at Singleton’s Seafood Shack in Mayport.
Owners and spouses Dean and Tabitha Singleton said the reopening date of the more than 50-year-old restaurant depends on final inspections.
“It’s the same old shack. It will just have a new vibe,” Dean Singleton said.
“We just put some new makeup on her.”
He suggested customers follow the restaurant’s Facebook page for updates.
The family-owned restaurant at 4728 Ocean St., next to the Mayport Ferry, has been closed for repairs since November 2021.
A fire inspection in 2020 forced the Singletons to close the dining room. Inspectors ordered a new sprinkler system to be installed throughout the restaurant.
W.W. Gay installed the sprinkler system. Large blue pipes now hang from the restaurant’s low ceilings.
At first, the restaurant continued to operate by serving customers in a large, non-air-conditioned party tent in the front parking lot.
The tent and portable toilets were costing about $8,000 per month.
But when the sprinkler work began, it was too dusty and cluttered to continue to serve food. Besides, the tent no longer was profitable, Tabitha Singleton said.
“It was the weather. Some nights it was too windy or too hot or it would rain,” she said.
The couple has taken the opportunity to repaint walls and varnish tables and the bar area, doing much of the work themselves.
“There isn’t an inch of this restaurant that we haven’t personally touched,” Dean Singleton said.
He estimates they have spent about $1 million to install the sprinklers and new air conditioning, repair the walls and ceiling and buy new kitchen equipment.
He suspects it will cost about $50,000 to restock the kitchen.
“That first order is going to be scary.”
They went through their life savings trying to stay open and pay for repairs.
“We spent everything we had on this restaurant,” Dean Singleton said.
They recently took on a silent partner, whom they decline to identify, to make the repairs possible.
The restaurant took time to finish because of supply chain problems and permitting delays, he said.
He thanks contractor Sammy Floyd of Futuristic Homes of Florida and architect Craig Sommers of Doherty Sommers Architects Engineers who helped with permitting.
Outside of the pipes, regular customers will not see a lot of changes.
Customers will still be able to buy shrimp, fish and oysters in a small retail market.
The restaurant has been redecorated slightly and the separate dedicated boat room will be completed later.
That room displays a collection of model shrimp boats built by Dean Singleton’s father. It also will serve as a banquet room.
The restaurant will display smaller boats from the collection.
Singleton’s decided to use glassware rather than plastic foam cups and plates. The bar will have 12 taps and feature locally brewed craft beers.
The menu will remain mostly the same, with the addition of lump crabcakes and a shrimp salad roll.
Prices will be similar to other seafood restaurants in the market,
Several high-top tables with umbrellas line the deck. A mural depicting the Mayport fishing village is being painted by area artist Gary Mack.
While the official occupancy number will be determined after the final fire inspection, it is estimated that the outdoor deck will seat 200 and the dining room will hold 120.
The Singletons hired about 50 employees, including many former workers who have been rehired.
The Singletons expect the first couple of months to be busy as they settle into a routine.