Sherri Broome smiled as husband Butch described the career path that took him from the restaurant business as a young man back to the restaurant business as an adult. By any stretch of the imagination, Butch Broome is a man with wanderlust in his veins.
Butch and Sherri Broome are the owners of family businesses Fish Tales Restaurant and Fort McAllister Marina in south Bryan County.
The youthful-looking couple have been married for more than 35 years and have two sons, Max and Zach and two grandchildren, Marleigh, 3, and Macon, 9.
"I grew up in the restaurant business. But I left the family business when I was 20. My father, Gene, had a bunch of restaurants when I was growing up. I’ve been in every business in the world. I’ve sold real estate. I’ve sold insurance and even solar panels. I got into the T-shirt business and even the import business. We imported lace and crystal from England.
"I worked very hard in those days and they very long days, too. One time, even Sherri told me I needed to find myself. But I’m just no good at sitting still. I always have to be doing something. I got into the lawn care business here in Richmond Hill in 1998 by accident. I had just enough money to open the doors. I was doing everything from aerating and spraying the lawns to making sales calls to telemarketing the business. So Sherri and I built the business up.
"So we sold that business and I didn’t to anything for about three years. Sherri opened a dog grooming business here in Richmond Hill called ‘Pawparazzi,’ which she sold after opening the restaurant.
"I guess I was driving her nuts during that time. I have to always have something going," he said with a wide grin.
"I was looking for something to do and there was this small place here (later Fish Tales Restaurant). It wasn’t doing much business. I tried to buy the owner out but he didn’t want to sell. Then the lease became available. I didn’t know Toby Roberts very well. He owned the property and the lease. So I went to Toby and asked if I could lease the place. He called me and told me the lease was mine. We remodeled the building and Fish Tales became a reality. I did it because I wanted it to be a fun place where families could come to. I didn’t want it to be a bar. I wanted it to be a restaurant.
Through the Broome’s hard work, and the husband and wife team say the road to success hasn’t always been smooth but always worth the effort, nonetheless, Fish Tales has become a popular area restaurant that has even drawn customers from Australia and was recognized in 2013 by the Richmond Hill-Bryan County Chamber of Commerce as the Small Business of the Year.
"I wanted it to be a fun place for kids.
"About five years ago, Toby came to me and told me I needed to buy the marina. And he was right. He gave me an opportunity and I’ll always be grateful for that. The restaurant was getting so busy that we needed to control the entire property. I’m a workaholic. Sherri manages the marina and I run the restaurant and day-to-day operations."
Broome doesn’t look far into the future when it comes to business opportunities but says it would take a lot to draw him away from Richmond Hill and the businesses he and Sherri have built together.
"When you get older, and I’m 58, you want to be happy and make a living. And that’s what we are doing."
"When we got it, the marina was in pretty bad shape in terms of revenue. But the biggest reason we bought the marina was to help the restaurant. And it has done that.
"The marina has grown tremendously and is doing very well. With the boats we have coming in this month, we’ll be full at about 40 full time dockage boats," Sherri said.
In fact, the Broome’s own two nearby boat and marine storage yards. The business have grown so rapidly that the number of part-time and full-time employees has grown to 63 from the early days when they had less than 10, he said.
"I don’t care what you do, you can figure out a way to do it better and that’s what I tell my employees," Butch said.
But working hard for the Richmond Hill residents isn’t their only passion.
Butch, who originally hails from Columbia, South Carolina, while Sherri, who spent her early years in Detroit, Michigan, love to travel whenever they get the chance and can get away from their businesses.
"We travel when we can. We love to travel. We try to go new places. We like to go to tropical places but I think we are going to venture out and go to Europe this year. We do go to New York every December. That’s one of my favorite places to be. We started going to New York as kind of a fluke. We won a trip there. We went and stayed right in Times Square. I fell in love with New York," Sherri said.
"One thing we’ve recently been talking about is we want to figure out a way to do more for the community. We do a lot of things already that people don’t know about because we want to keep it private," Sherri said.
"The fireworks we do for Labor Day and the first week in December, for example. We do them because people love it. We don’t do it to increase business. Honestly, we don’t make anything on the shows. We do it because people love it."
While it has helped their businesses, the growth of Richmond Hill and south Bryan County is something the Broomes have definite opinions on, much like many other county and city residents.
"It just keeps growing. The growing traffic is an issue. But growth is inevitable. You can’t stop growth. We may be able to manage it better, but you can’t stop it," Butch, who ran for Bryan County commissioner in 2009, said.
Broome is one who always looks to the future, even in unconventional ways.
"When I’m dead and gone, I want people to look back and know that I made a difference in my community," Butch said.
We care about this place and we care about the community. This is our home. We want it to be the best it can be."