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A little place on river where tales are spun
Shirley Says
Butche Broome sits in front of Fish Tales restaurant. - photo by Photo by Richard Bates
'The best kind of friend is the one you could sit on a porch with, never saying a word, and walk away feeling like that was the best conversation you’ve had.'
– Unknown

“If you like pina coladas, and getting caught in the rain...if you like making love at midnight...come with me and escape.” You’ll be caught up in a Caribbean atmosphere at the quaint Fish Tales restaurant on Fort McAllister Road.
Fish Tales is on the beautiful Ogeechee River. It’s been said the 245-mile black water flow has magical qualities. On the banks of that river, a structure, now Fish Tales, had an enchanting beginning.
The year was 1945. Tommy Darieng had recently graduated from Ways High School. He joined the Merchant Marines and served as junior engineer on a cargo ship.
On Tommy’s first voyage, the ship transported raw sugar to England. While docked in Liverpool and dressed in his only suit, he took a walk that changed his life.
In a chaperoned tearoom, he saw a beautiful woman. Bravely he walked up to her and managed to ask, “May I sit with you and have a cup of tea?” Irene Rollingson agreed.
After talking for a time, Tommy asked Irene for her telephone number. When he called the next day, he couldn’t remember her last name. He simply asked, “Can I speak to Miss Irene?” From that day forward she was called Miss Irene.
Five days after meeting Irene, Tommy didn’t see her for two years. They continued their courtship by exchanging letters. Finally, he wrote Miss Irene and proposed marriage. In 1948, she arrived in Savannah. That year, they were married by Judge Roscoff Deal in Pembroke.
During the nine years before retiring, Tommy managed the Fort McAllister State Park. He then wanted to do something different - he wanted to work for himself. He had big dreams of building a marina and store.
In 1973, he constructed a building with space for a store downstairs and living quarters above. He and Miss Irene named the store Fort McAllister Supply Center.
Rusty and Patrice Black, owners of Richmond Hill PALS daycare, vividly remember going to the supply center.
Rusty recalled, “My family moved to Richmond Hill when I was 9 years old. I’ve been here for 43 years. I always stopped at Tommy and Miss Irene’s store for a grape slushy.” With a chuckle, he added, “When the Darieng family lived at the park, Chris had a pet raccoon named ‘Campy’ and we regularly rode motorbikes on the Fort McAllister Spur ... Those were some good times.”
On one side of the supply center was a manmade lake. Tommy’s oldest son Stephen named it “Eden Lake.” The dirt taken from there was used to build the road crossing the marsh to Savage Island. Tommy eventually filled in the half of the lake he owned.
In the late 1970s or early ‘80s, Tommy and Miss Irene bought the property across from the supply center and built a marina. Fish Tales is there today.
In their last years at the marina, Miss Irene’s health began to fail - she had two open-heart surgeries. As she got sicker, they knew they had to sell the marina. It was sold in 1997.
Tommy and Miss Irene were married for 58 years. She died Oct. 6, 2004.
Butch Broome bought Fish Tales nearly two years ago. At the time, he was retired and thought he would be content to hunt and fish. It didn’t take long to realize his favorite hobby is “working.”
He explained, “I can’t be idle. I grew up in the restaurant business. For whatever reason, I’ve held on to a hand-typed restaurant operations manual from 1963. It was my dad’s from the time he owned a seafood restaurant.”
Butch Broome’s Fish Tales, within walking distance of Fort McAllister State Park, exudes casual southern charm. When you walk in, a stiff upper-lipped maitre d’ won’t meet you, neither will you be seated at a table with tinkling water glasses.
What you will find at Fish Tales is absolute delight. You’ll have an overwhelming sense of deja vu - being in a tiki hut and not surprised to see Jimmy Buffett walk in. One wall is covered with a mural from the Cayman Islands, and the ceiling is made of strategically placed bamboo poles.
When Butch was growing up, his dad had a place in Grand Cayman. Not surprisingly, he has a love for the Caribbean depicted in the ambiance of Fish Tales. Though he went there often, he is very happy in Richmond Hill. He said, “I’m having the time of my life!”
Butch custom built the tables on the restaurants back porch, which he playfully named “tacky Caribbean.” He and his Fish Tales staff of young ladies painted the tables and chairs in the waterfront dining area.
When Butch referred to the bar area, he said, “We call it ‘classy Caribbean,’ If you go to some of the nicer places in the Caribbean, it’s indicative of the colors and the way it’s laid out.”
People come to Fish Tales in shorts, flip-flops and T-shirts. This pleases Butch. He said, “We are extremely laid back here ... I want to have fun, I want my staff to have fun and I want my patrons to have a good time, as well.”
Frank and Christine Desmond enjoy their evenings at Fish Tales. Christine said, “There’s a folksy atmosphere there ... it’s not stuffy. People share fish stories and hang out. There are great pictures on the wall and great stories behind them. We like looking out over the water and seeing the boats. They have great entertainment on the patio ... and the staff is great.”
Fish Tales is family-friendly. There are few places you can take kids to dinner and be on the water. Since the Ogeechee’s 7-mile-bend blowout, dolphins have been seen near the water’s edge at Fish Tales.
It’s not uncommon for Butch to keep children occupied while waiting for their family to be seated. He’s often seen taking them to the bait tank on the dock where they are allowed to catch live shrimp with their bare hands.
Butch wants to know how you feel about your dining experience. He said, “If you see something you want changed, let me know…I can change company policy walking down the street!”
Fish Tales’ experienced Chef Chris once worked for Paula Dean. According to Butch, “He is a magician at preparing delectable food. He uses a lot of 1963 technology. For instance, our cocktail sauce is from that time.”
Butch is proud of what comes from his small kitchen. “I put out a good product,” he said. “Everything we make is ‘to order’... we don’t have holding bins.” (As a plus, they use 0 trans fat cooking oil.)
Recently, Richard and I had another superb dinner at Fish Tales (the She-Crab Soup is to die for). During our time there, Brian Skibicki walked in. He reminisced about the days Tommy and Miss Irene ran the marina.
Brian shared his thoughts and said, “I hate to think about Tommy and Miss Irene not being here ... she was something special. You know when something is a good fit. Before Butch, it wasn’t ... now you get a different vibe. When you walk in, you feel you are among friends.”
Remembering days past, Brian’s voice took on a serious tone: “I’ve known Butch since he had his first business in Richmond Hill...he’s a good person to take over this place. Miss Irene would be happy.”

Hiers was born and raised in Richmond Hill. You can reach her at
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