Staff Photo: Keith Farner Bartender Marti Hunnewell works at the counter inside Gulf Coast Grill, a new seafood restaurant that opened in Suwanee about a month ago. The husband and wife ownership of Mark Deschaine and Amy Fitzpatrick hope a family atmosphere attracts customers.
SUWANEE -- Two self-described "foodies," a husband and wife, recently added to the suddenly growing seafood market in Suwanee.
Gulf Coast Grill, located next to IHOP on Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road, opened about a month ago, and is the second seafood restaurant to open in the city in the last six months. Hammerhead Seafood opened in June.
Amy Fitzpatrick, who owns the restaurant with her husband Mark Deschaine, said they looked at the city's demographics and sought to appeal to Suwanee's family-oriented community. Along with the relative lack of fresh seafood in the area, Fitzpatrick said their restaurant offers a rare family atmosphere where live music is available, but not too loud that a conversation is impossible for people 30 and up.
Fitzpatrick has owned a bakery in Mississippi and worked for a baking manufacturing company. She said her seafood knowledge comes from those six years in Mississippi, and having relatives in New Orleans.
Deschaine, who is from Lower Alabama, has been in the restaurant industry for more than 20 years, has run night clubs and sold seafood.
"Both of us are foodies," Fitzpatrick said. "Both of us know what good seafood should taste like."
Along with a full bar and fresh daily oyster bar, Gulf Coast Grill offers an $8 all-inclusive lunch menu. On the weekends, it has live music on Friday and Saturday nights, and a Sunday brunch.
There's also a kids game room that has video games.
"Kids can go enjoy, and parents can have a conversation, an adult beverage if they like, and they're listening to music without the kids getting bored," Fitzpatrick said. "We want them to have an experience, and the service be second to none, so they feel like when they leave, they have been pampered and taken care of. A place to get away."
Fitzpatrick said the couple would like to expand the franchise regionally, and Deschaine's goal is three restaurants in the next five years.
The couple, who together have six children, have been married for three and a half years, and Fitzpatrick said she fell in love with the area after moving here seven years ago.
"His and mine, and then the restaurant is ours," Fitzpatrick said. "This is our baby."
To measure long-term success, Fitzpatrick said the biggest indicator is return business and word-of-mouth referrals.
"When you have people bringing in other people, and you know each other," she said. "Then they start bringing in their kids, and the kids celebrate their birthdays, you become part of that, you become an extension of that. That's real success, when people feel comfortable, and know every time they come, the standards are going to be high and the food quality is going to be outstanding."