By Cathy Wharton
For Hometown News
It all started when Jimmy Hull was growing up on the Halifax River, digging and playing along the riverbank, looking for whatever kind of critter he could find.
While most boys his age engaged in other sports, Jimmy went fishing. When he was 14 years old, his father, Dr. James G. Hull, knowing his namesake had no interest in following in his footsteps, gave his adventurous son a small boat and motor. Though each generation -- grandfather, father and brother -- had carried on the family tradition of becoming a doctor, James Hull Jr. chose a different path.
The boat provided young Jimmy an entree into exploring distant waters that, for him, had previously been inaccessible. It took him north to the Tomoka basin, south to the inlet and to every point in between. On trips to the inlet area, he would often stop at Inlet Harbor to fuel up. On one such occasion he was asked if he would like to fill in as a mate on one of the charter boats. It was then the avid young fisherman was introduced to the recreational fishing industry.
On the day he turned 18, Jimmy Hull took the captain's license exam. He passed the test. At the age of 20, Captain Hull acquired his first charter boat: The 44-foot "Satisfaction." The boat was equipped for both charter and commercial fishing operations.
During the commercial part of the operation, Capt. Hull and his crew would often be at sea for days at a time, bringing home a variety of species to sell to local fish markets. He also ran the boat "Star," primarily for charter fishing.
After Capt. Hull married, he started winding down his extended time at sea. "Full time fishermen are never home," he quipped. He then modified his ocean expeditions to day trips only. In the meantime, his fishing business continued to thrive.
In 1981, Capt. Hull opened his own retail-wholesale seafood market. He "found an old fish store that had been closed for two years" on West Granada Boulevard in Ormond Beach. It was a perfect setting for his latest venture -- Hull's Seafood. The store became so popular with local residents it needed more floor space. As the business continued to grow, Mr. Hull expanded his retail operation. The wholesale end of the market was also going strong and during that time, Hull's Seafood was delivering truckloads of fresh seafood to area restaurants, including the Red Lobster and Outback Steakhouse chains.
The economic downturn in 2007, however, brought a change to the business. With the rising cost of fuel and other setbacks, Mr. Hull decided to diversify. First, he discontinued wholesale deliveries to retail establishments. He also scaled back to one "hook and line" vessel and two crabbing vessels. Finally he bought an empty storefront property adjacent to the market. In 2008, he opened a small seafood cafe. "It was a major shift from a retail/wholesale operation into a retail seafood and restaurant operation," Mr. Hull said.
Today, Hull's Seafood occupies a sizable block of retail space. The market, of course, supplies straight-from-the-boats seafood to the adjoining restaurant -- a relaxing indoor/outdoor setting that offers the freshest seafood dishes to be found. From appetizers to platters, only the best is served at Hull's Seafood Restaurant.
In the seafood market, there is a dazzling array of choices. The most obvious display is the long glass-covered cases containing snapper, grouper, mahi, tuna, flounder, whiting, swordfish, sea bass and triggerfish, all indigenous to local waters. Blue crabs and stone crabs are another Hull's specialty. The market also carries fresh shrimp, lobster (from the Keys), sea scallops, salmon (Atlantic and Alaskan) and calamari.
Hull's offers prepared items, such as homemade seafood dip and smoked salmon. All are delicious, ready to go and perfect for entertaining. Other store items include sauces, such as tartar or cocktail; tomatoes and lemons; plus a number of spices and seasonings.
A look-see wouldn't be complete without a visual appreciation of the interior walls. Mounted on one wall is a sailfish and, on another, a marlin, both caught by Jimmy Hull himself. A third wall hosts a number of photos depicting Mr. Hull's personal journey from "fisherman lad" to "fisherman dad" -- and a lot of boat trips along the way.
At Hull's, it's all about quality. "We take pride in providing the community with American seafood caught by American fisherman -- from boat to throat," Mr. Hull said.
Hull's Seafood is at 111 W. Granada Boulevard, Ormond Beach. Restaurant hours are 10:30 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. Call (386) 673-8888. Seafood Market hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. Call (386) 677-1511. Website: hullsseafood.com.