“I’ve been looking at Jasper for a long time,” said 3rd generation restaurateur Agnew Hall. “We just felt this would be a great fit.”
A great fit for the fourth Ezell’s Fish Camp to open in Alabama in recent years. The first two opened in Calera and Bessemer and the third opens this month in Gadsden.
According to Hall, the Jasper location will open the week of July 8 in the former Brangus Steakhouse location just off Old U.S. 78 West.
Longtime Brangus owner Lonnie Baxter announced to his staff last December that he was retiring and would close his restaurant by the end of the summer after 18 years.
He turned to Linda Lewis, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County, after reading in February that the local chamber had hired Birmingham-based Retail Strategies to market Jasper and Walker County.
“Within three weeks of contacting Linda, I had a Letter of Intent in my hands. I could not be more grateful for Linda Lewis and the chamber of commerce for all that they do for Walker County,” said the 70-year-old Baxter.
Baxter, his wife, Dee, and longtime Brangus assistant manager Jennifer Stephens met with Hall and Ezell’s Fish Camp CFO Emily Ferrell at the Jasper location Tuesday morning to sign the papers that officially turn a steakhouse into a fish camp.
The chamber’s Lewis was also on hand with Charles Branch and Todd Becker of Retail Strategies, which played a key role in brokering the restaurant deal.
“This is a great day for all of us in Jasper and throughout Walker County. It’s right in line with our key business development initiative in our five-year Forward Walker County plan,” remarked Lewis.
“Here we have a case of passing the baton without missing a step. Lonnie has been a fixture here with the successful Brangus Steakhouse. I am confident that Ezell’s will validate its decision to locate here in no time at all,” Lewis added.
Meanwhile, the original Ezell’s Fish Camp opened in Lavaca back in the 1930s, when Charles Agnew Ezell (Hall’s grandfather) began hosting his all-you-can-eat fish fries with the catfish he pulled out of the Tombigbee River.
In 1954, the business grew into a full-fledged restaurant called Ezell’s Fish Camp, which Ezell’s daughter, Mary Ann Ezell Hall, has run for the past 35 years.
After he finished college at the University of West Alabama, Agnew Hall helped his mother at the original Ezell’s for a few years, and he bought a catering truck and traveled from town to town selling the tasty fish dishes.
In 2007, Hall moved to Birmingham and opened his first Ezell’s Catfish Cabin in Pelham, which he later moved to Trussville and eventually sold.
In 2009, he opened the Bessemer location.
Now, through a partnership between Hall and Golden Rule’s Michael Matsos, at least five additional Ezell’s locations either have or will open this year, mostly under the Ezell’s Fish Camp brand.
“Being a third generation Ezell, this will be a proud day for the Ezell family,” said Agnew Hall. My grandfather would be mighty proud.”
The renovation process is expected to last through the end of June. Ezell’s Fish Camp in Jasper will employ 20-25 people and will strive to keep as many Brangus employees as possible, noted Ferrell.