OMG Seafood opening brings jobs despite pandemic

John Lee (left) and his wife Neteia with Island OMG Seafood co-owner Felicia Stanley before last Tuesday’s ribbon cutting at their new location on North Monroe Street.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

The event was important enough for Katina Tuggerson, president of the Capital City Chamber of Commerce, to disrupt her holiday time off to attend. Missing the ribbon cutting and grand opening of Island OMG Seafood wasn’t an option, she insisted.

“I’m so excited to be here today for us to close the year strongly,” Tuggerson said at last week’s ribbon cutting ceremony. “A Black business opening up on the last week of the year in Tallahassee; I’m so excited.”

Of course, so are the owners – John and Neteia Lee, who founded the OMG Seafood brand in Thomasville, Ga., and their Tallahassee partners Felicia Stanley and her husband.

The Lee’s opened their first OMG Seafood restaurant last fall at 1102 East Jackson Street in Thomasville. Their newest location in Tallahassee is at 1019 North Monroe Street.

Opening a Tallahassee location has been an idea since last spring. It began to come to fruition when the Stanley’s, former owners of Play Sports Bar, inquired about a partnership to open a restaurant in Tallahassee.

Felicia Stanley was no stranger to the OMG Seafood flavor.  The restaurant was a regular stop when she visited her doctor in Thomasville, she said.

 She eventually brought food to her husband who was already familiar with the taste. So when the couple began thinking about having a restaurant in the spot on North Monroe, it just seemed natural to have the talk with the Lee’s.

“It was like, why not? Let just talk with them,” Felicia said.

Things began to move quickly, although the question of opening a restaurant during a pandemic came up a few times.

Her response was always “Why not now?” she said. “People are in need of jobs, people need to eat in spite of all the other sad things like businesses are closing.”

Those closings since the pandemic outbreak last spring have affected people who were making low income. With six employees at their Thomasville location, the Tallahassee location is expected to create more jobs.

Pastor Rudy Ferguson, who attended the ribbon cutting, said he sees the need for jobs every day in the Frenchtown community where his church is located.

“This is something that gives us hope, especially for those that don’t have jobs in those disenfranchised communities and probably won’t see any money just yet from the 900 billion that was signed into law,” said Ferguson, minister at New Birth Tabernacle of Praise.  “This is a beacon of hope to see these Black entrepreneurs come together to; not just open a restaurant, but open a business that will help others.”

The closings caused by the pandemic have created a void in food service that Stanley said boosted her confidence that the business will grow.

Then, there is the fact that OMG Seafood had already established a following that traveled to Thomasville, said Neteia Lee.

“I had people from Tallahassee, Atlanta, Tampa and people were even coming from Jacksonville,” she said. “There are a lot of people excited about OMG Seafood opening up. They’ve already had it; tasted it. They love the music and the atmosphere.”

There is no alcohol served at the Thomasville location, but the owners said they will have indoors and outdoors bars in Tallahassee.

The success that the Lee’s is enjoying started on their porch years ago. They eventually opted to set up shop at the East Jackson Street location.

“It just kept going from step to step and we just had to get into a restaurant,” John Lee said. “You’ve got to start from somewhere.”

They didn’t have a name, though, for some time until John began paying attention the response from their clientele over a butter sauce that he created.

“Everybody that was eating that butter sauce once we created it; the only words they could say were ‘Oh my God, it’s good. This is wonderful.’ ”

With that, OMG Seafood was born. The restaurant will open at 11 a.m. daily. It closes at about 10 p.m. except on Friday and Saturday nights when it will close at 2 a.m.

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