August 2021 marks the 40th year the Hull's Seafood Market has been providing the community with fresh seafood by Captain Jimmy Hull.
Family-owned and -operated Hull’s Seafood Market and Restaurant celebrates its market’s 40th anniversary this August.
Fresh-off-the-boat fish, service with a smile and an owner who has an affinity to lead with a strong work ethic, have given Hull’s its business longevity and popularity among foodies and fishermen alike.
Captain Jimmy Hull was born Oct. 7, 1955, in New Smyrna Beach into a family of physicians. His father, brother and grandfather were doctors, but when Hull was 14 years old, his father bought him a boat, which permanently altered the trajectory of his career. At the time, Hull would head down to Inlet Harbor in his boat from his family’s home in Ormond Beach. The marina became not only a staging area for fuel and bait, but a haven where he would hone his trade. Charter boats were in abundance there, and eventually Hull was asked by the charter booking agent Bill Stevens to work as a mate for one of them. For four years, every summer he made money as a charter mate until he turned 18, got his captain’s license and borrowed money to purchase his own charter and commercial fishing boat.
After eight years of catching and selling fish to Park’s Seafood, BNB Fisheries and a multitude of local fish houses, Hull wanted to reinvent himself.
“Fishermen are never home,” he said. “I had a wife, and I had to figure out what I was going to do. I kept seeing a fish market that had closed on Granada but never really thought about it until I found out the Fegers who owned the large commercial fishing docks in New Smyrna Beach also owned that closed market.”
Hull leased the 700-square-foot market, and Emma Fegers taught him the world of running a successful fish market. Days consisted of product pickup runs to New Smyrna Beach and a quick turnaround back to the market to open the doors by 10 a.m.
Hull’s market grew one customer at a time, eventually leading to local fishermen bringing in their fresh water catch-of-the-day to sell and the need to hire his first employee. As sales increased, Hull eventually ran a lucrative wholesale business, with six trucks making daily seafood deliveries to Carrabba’s, Outback Steakhouse, The Cheesecake Factory and country clubs.
In 2008, the economic decline forced restaurants to decrease their orders. Hull too responded to the reduction in sales with the expansion of his business. His first step was to open a small take-out-only kitchen, but the increased demand led to the buildout of a full-service restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating.
Hull’s Seafood Market is still nestled on the corner of Granada Boulevard and Ridgewood Avenue, occupying the same building that was purchased in 1981 by its owner.
“If you could see where this little company came from and its ability to thrive through all the adversities it’s faced over the years,” General Manager Brian Cavanaugh said. “Competing with big grocery stores and chains, for instance — 40 years is one heck of an accomplishment.”
In 2004, Cavanaugh started working for Hull at the age of 16, doing everything from scrubbing trash cans to shoveling ice. He worked his way to a managerial position after a few years. Currently, he is the general manager and after marrying Michelle, Hull’s oldest daughter, is part of the family.
Even though Cavanaugh is not an avid fisherman, after 17 years at Hull’s he enjoys working on the crabbing vessels.
Angie Schaeffer, one of Cavanaugh’s managers, also began working at Hull’s as a teenager while she was attending Seabreeze High School 20 years ago. Hull would stand behind the cutting table, cutting and selling the fish as he taught her how to work the market. Like many other employees who had worked at Hull’s as teens, Schaeffer moved away for a few years but returned to be closer to her family and, once again, returned to her previous job at Hull’s.
“Jim Hull is one of the hardest working men I’ve ever met,” Schaeffer said. “I’ve pretty much learned my work ethic through him and, of course, my family as well. I’ve learned the hard work through Jim.”
Hull’s Seafood Market and Restaurant seats 250 people, requires 100 employees to run it smoothly, six boats to provide the customers with daily fresh seafood and an owner who still goes to the docks at 4:00 a.m.
“Most people retire after 40 years,” Hull said. “I’m never going to retire. This is what I'm going to do. You couldn’t find a better place to be in business than right here in Ormond.”