Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Turns out Crazy Fish Restaurant Wasn't Such a Crazy Idea; in Addition to Seafood, the Eatery Serves Up Sightseeing on an Airboat

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Turns out Crazy Fish Restaurant Wasn't Such a Crazy Idea; in Addition to Seafood, the Eatery Serves Up Sightseeing on an Airboat

Article excerpt

Byline: Maggie FitzRoy

People told Josh Schrutt he was crazy to open a hard-to-find restaurant during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

Even if it did overlook the Intracoastal Waterway. Even if it did feature seafood dishes from around the world. And even if it offered boating, fishing and sightseeing activities available nowhere else for miles around.

"Down a dead-end road, on a little island, without a street sign," Schrutt said one recent day after returning from an airboat ride along the Intracoastal. "It's called Crazy Fish because everybody told me I was crazy to start something like this in this economy."

Crazy Fish is at 2510 Second Ave. N. in Jacksonville Beach, near Beach Marine. Schrutt opened the old-Florida-style restaurant about three years ago in an abandoned Florida Marine Patrol building because he liked the waterfront location. In addition to food, he wanted to offer water activities that the Jacksonville area lacks compared to other beach towns in the state.

But the restaurant's tucked-away location has presented challenges. People traveling major roads can't see it. Customers who are looking for it can't see it until they arrive.

Just east of the Beach Boulevard bridge, they need to turn onto 20th Street, a small road across from Adventure Landing. After following that road around the back of Beach Marine, there is a street sign for Second Avenue South, which bears to the right, but no street sign for Second Avenue North, which bears left. Customers need to bear left on the unmarked road, until they cross a small bridge, and can then see Crazy Fish on the left at the end of the road.

"Our slogan is find us if you can," Schrutt said. "We've had patrons tell us they've tried three times to find the restaurant. Some take it as a challenge."

It's also been a challenge for Schrutt to run the restaurant under such challenging conditions. But he's persevered, working 14-hour days and enhancing his steadily growing business.

He recently opened a second restaurant called Crazy Fish Express at 309 Atlantic Blvd. at Beaches Town Center.

Schrutt lets people know about his restaurants through newspaper advertising. And he continues to expand the waterfront activities, now offering airboat rides between Atlantic Boulevard and Butler Boulevard on the Intracoastal.

The 45-minute-to-an-hour airboat tours are unique in Jacksonville. The next closest rides are outside Orlando, Schrutt said.

Capt. Joe Sweet, a Coast Guard veteran who once worked security for President George H.W. Bush, pilots the six-passenger airboat up and down the waterway and into marshland areas not accessible to many boats.

Sweet said since the airboat rides on top of the water, it does not harm animals or the ecosystem.

Sweet uses quiet trolling motors during the first part of the trip. …

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