Chuck Lawrence, owner of Captain Chuck-A-Muck’s - located in beautiful downtown Rescue, Virginia, just minutes away from downtown Smithfield
“I had no idea I wanted to be in the restaurant business,” states Chuck Lawrence, owner of Chuck-A-Muck’s Ship’s Store & Grill. But fate intervened and today Chuck’s is one of the region’s most popular seafood restaurants – so much so that it was featured on an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” with Guy Fieri (Episode: Where the Locals Eat), that first aired in early 2008.
“We were lucky,” explains Chuck. “We have had customers from all 50 states and some 54 foreign counties visit us after seeing that show. We see many new faces every week, even now after all these years.”
So what lured this Portsmouth native to lovely Rescue, Virginia and into the restaurant business? “In the fall of 1997 we moved my boat business to Rescue to be on the water. Jo and Billy Carter owned the property where the restaurant stands today. They had a seafood business and a restaurant here for many, many, years. I was going to close the restaurant down when I bought the property, rent it to someone, or use it in my boat business for office space.” However it quickly became apparent that because the property had been built so long ago, it was going to cost “a gazillion dollars on updates to bring it up to code.” So in the spring of 1998, for $25 dollars, the names were changed on the permit and Chuck and wife Cris were in the restaurant business.
Chuck’s original intention was to be open on weekends only to serve hot steamed Crabs and cold beer. “But my first manager was a good friend who had a long background in the restaurant business, and I lost total control and it went from crabs and beer to a full blown menu, for lunch and dinner six days a week.”
Not so auspicious a beginning perhaps, but it didn’t take Chuck-A-Muck’s long to make a name for itself in the region. “As much water as there is in our area, boaters still have very few places they can go by boat with their family to enjoy a good meal and a good time.” And despite Chuck’s reluctance, his family were all good cooks and he had been told he knew his way around the kitchen. “Growing up in the Chesapeake Bay area, and traveling all over the East Coast, Gulf Coast, and many Islands in the Caribbean, I know what good fresh seafood is all about, and that is still the core of our menu.”
House favorites include their homemade crabcakes, grilled fish over live charcoal, homemade unisex carb soup (“she-crab to most, but we’re politically correct – and I don’t check every crab!”), and REAL key lime pie. Chuck’s menu has grown recently to include Angus Beef burgers and steaks – filling a need they saw for a good steak place in the area.
They’ve also added a Ships Store and Gift Shop which features boating supplies, beer, sodas, and ice for the boating crowd, as well as a large t-shirt selection, unique furniture and a wonderful collection of local art. And while their two websites don’t offer online business, Chuck is happy to ship anything a customer sees online.
Part of the appeal of Chuck-A-Muck's is no doubt Chuck himself. Often greeting guests at each table, Chuck, who had a Coast Guard Captains' license almost before he had a drivers license, always had the nickname Captain Chuck. An old girlfriend tagged on "Amuck," and thus the name of the restaurant.
The Chuck-A-Muck family includes Chuck’s wife Cris (The Admiral), son David and “two kids of the four-legged variety” – yellow labs, Nellie and Moses. Chuck also boasts that he has “the best group of people working with us right now than we have had in the 18 years I’ve been doing this. And that says a lot.”
Both Chuck and Cris are very active with their local church, Bacons Castle Baptist Church, and they try as often as they can to visit the Islands, the Keys, Costa Rica, or “somewhere warm” on their January break – however they’ve found a “staycation” at home to be the most relaxing by far.
But as they say, “the only thing constant is change” and sadly, there are changes ahead for Chuck and Cris. “As much as we love what we do, it is time for us to slow down a little. I’ve had some health issues in the last few years and I’m just not as young as I want to be. We are actively trying to find someone who is interested in our business for us to put our exit strategy into effect. So if someone who is reading this about us is interested in helping us with that goal, I would sure like to talk with them about the possibilities. Whether it is the business or business and property, I’m ready to make someone a deal.”
So if you can imagine yourself sitting on the porch overlooking Jones Creek, sipping a drink, topping off a delicious meal with some key lime pie, watching the sun set over the creek, with a bit of Jimmy Buffet music playing in the background while being served by the friendliest staff around – stop by Chuck’s – or hey, give him a call. Maybe fate is tapping you on the shoulder next…
21088 Marina Road
Carrollton, VA 23314
Gift Shop: 757.357.2007
Facebook: Captain Chuck-a-Mucks