Jimmy “the fishman” Johnson is a self-described beach bum. But, the former restaurant owner is anything but lazy. Johnson used to sell 3,000 surf-and-turf dinners a week, at his restaurant in Wildwood, N.J.
“In season, there were lines every day of the week, droves of people,” Johnson says. “We fed them all day and all night long. They never stopped coming.”
The Pennsylvania native moved to New Jersey after high school, where he opened his first restaurant, The Shack. The restaurant was open 24 hours and sold sandwiches and omelets.
After a fire burned down the pier on which the restaurant was located, Johnson rented another restaurant that sat 140 people and named it The Lobster Shack. He offered a surf-and-turf special for $8.95, earning him the nickname “The King of Surf and Turf.”
A fire also struck new the restaurant in 1982, and Johnson, now the owner of the building, decided to rebuild it himself. In 1985, he changed the name of the restaurant to Jimmy the Fishman’s Lobster Shack, a nickname that has stuck with him to this day.
After the season was done, Johnson closed the restaurant and visited Siesta Key; in 2009, he moved permanently to the Key.
“I still had the hair on my head and (my) health, I figured it was time to get out and leave on the up,” says Johnson.
Although Johnson retired at 55, he never stopped working. Today, Johnson lives on Beach Road, just steps from the beach, and can be found helping customers at Siesta Key Hardware, walking the beach or riding his bike. He is still known by fellow key residents as “Jimmy the fishman.”
“I don’t own a shirt with a collar; I don’t own a tie. I have become a total beach bum,” Johnson says. “I just want to go where the weather suits my clothes.”