Sixty years in Denver
by Tori Hamby
A trip to South Carolina more than half a century ago changed everything for Denver’s Jones family and led to the founding of one of the areas longest-standing restaurants.
Bryant Jones, a gas station worker, returned from the Palmetto State in the early 1950s with a brilliant idea. He came across a fish camp during his visit and told his wife, Viney, he had thought of the perfect addition for the Denver community – Jones Fish Camp.
“He was grinning like a opossum,” Garrett Goodson, Jones’ grandson and current Jones Fish Camp owner, said when recalling the story. Goodson, 48, may not have been alive to see the birth of his family’s business in June 1952, but the story has morphed into somewhat of a legend among family members.
As it turns out Jones’ decision was a good one. The restaurant is in the midst of its 60th year celebration. Its ownership has changed hands among family members as they retired or passed away, but as Garrett Goodson puts it – “we’ve always stayed true to our roots.”
Owners have added onto the fish camp’s building as time progressed, but it still stands at its original location – on N.C. 16 near the Denver/Maiden border. A former pay-to-fish pond still sits behind the restaurant and Garrett Goodson’s mother, Wanda Jones Goodson, still lives in Bryant and Viney Jones’ old home across the water.
The restaurant continues to offer standard fish camp fare – mostly fried – calabash shrimp, catfish, flounder filet, clam strips and perch. Cooks make Jones’ signature onion rings, hushpuppies, tartar sauce and slaw from scratch.
“We have people tell us that they can find good fish anywhere, but that it’s hard to beat our hushpuppies, slaw, tartar sauce and onion rings,” Garrett Goodson said.
Stepping through the restaurants doors may be a lot like stepping back in time – Goodson and his family has refrained from modernizing the décor out of fear of disappointing their regular customers. But the fish camp wouldn’t have survived six decades by bucking every modern trend.
Management has added healthier options as fried food earned a bad reputation with nutritionists and health nuts. Cabbage, green beans and corn on the cob can be found on the menu right alongside the onion rings, French fries and macaroni and cheese.
And while the fish camp has always relied on word-of-mouth Karen Goodson has found a way to use today’s version of the “grapevine” to advertise to new and old customers.
“We’ve started using Facebook,” Karen Goodson said. “We do two to three posts a day showing our specials.”
As the fish camp heads into its seventh decade, a fourth generation has already stepped up to look after the restaurant’s future. The Goodsons’ sons, 21-year-old Justin and 17-year-old Colton, as well as their 25-year-old stepdaughter Savannah Sears, now work at Jones’.
And Garrett Goodson has faith that the restaurant will live to celebrate bigger milestones. The key, he said, is always in customer satisfaction.
“If a customer asks for something unusual, I will always say ‘we don’t normally do that, but I’m the owner and I can do whatever I want, so we will do our best.’”