It was the second Wednesday in May of 1978.
For two years, Harold Youngblood had been experimenting with seafood breading at the family's other business enterprise, Deanna's Drive-In. With his construction company, he had pulled two houses together off S.C. 215 in Buffalo, made some modifications and added a kitchen. He was ready to give a longtime dream a try - he was opening a fish camp.
"The reason I opened on a Wednesday night was I didn't want too many people there," he said. "We were all new, with all new employees."
But just a little word of mouth advertising and the fact that there were cars in the parking lot helped to draw a crowd. That first night of business Buffalo Seafood House served 150 customers. And the folks have been coming in ever since.
This month, the restaurant is celebrating its 30th anniversary. It is now owned by Todd Justice and J.T. Rodgers, but many of the menu items are the same, many of the recipes are the same, including the mixtures Youngblood came up with for the breading and the hushpuppies.
"We pride ourselves on everything being homemade," Justice said. "Our hushpuppies are made from scratch. We cut our onion rings ourselves."
Youngblood, now 73, opened Dairi Queen in 1969. The name later changed to Deanna's in honor of his daughter, now Deanna Arnold. He wanted to own a fish camp and began trying different breading mixtures to see what customers might like.
"I would have different people come in and say, 'Sample this and let me know what you think of it,'" he said.
He settled on a mixture of flour, cornmeal and crackermeal and began making further plans for the restaurant building. He pulled together two houses in Buffalo. One was his boyhood home and another a rental house owned by his father.
Working with him in the restaurant were his first wife, Natalee; his parents, Ruby and Theodore "Doe" Youngblood; and Deanna. Youngblood's son, Terry, began managing Deanna's.
Over the years Youngblood had studied menus at other seafood restaurants, including Myrtle Beach establishments. He decided not to copy anyone's menu, but tried to offer a variety of seafood and other items like chicken and burgers.
"I never brought any premixes; everything was fresh, no frozen fish," he said.
The dining room seats 172. Youngblood said many Saturday nights it would "turn over" three times.
In 1981, Youngblood decided the pressures of owning two restaurants and a construction business were too much. His health began to fail and doctors warned him he was under too much stress. He sold all three businesses and he and his first wife moved to Myrtle Beach. William Moss and his sister, Virginia Thompson, bought Buffalo Seafood.
In 1986, Youngblood returned to Union County and opened Mr. K's party shop on the Duncan By-Pass. He sold it to Savemore in 1993. Natalee died in 1998. Youngblood and his second wife, Eleanor, have been married nine years. They still enjoy eating at Buffalo Seafood.
"I've been in a lot of fish camps, I've eaten in a lot of fish camps, but when you consider price and the quality of the food, you are not going to beat Buffalo Seafood," he said.
Justice, 45, is captain of security at Upstate Evaluation Center. He began working at Buffalo Seafood when Moss and Mrs. Thompson owned it.
"Virginia needed somebody to wash dishes," Justice said. "I went and helped out that one Saturday night and the next Saturday night I started learning how to cook a little and I've been doing it ever since."
He and Rodgers had worked together at Upstate Evaluation before Rodgers became a production associate in painting at BMW in Spartanburg. Rodgers' wife, Betty, continues to work at Upstate Evaluation. One day in 1997 Justice asked about Rodgers and Betty said her husband was looking for a part time job. Justice said Rodgers should come by the fish camp.
"I went by that Thursday and I've been there ever since," said Rodgers, 43.
Justice and Rodgers, a former Jonesville High School basketball standout and Army veteran, bought Buffalo Seafood in April of 1999. The restaurant has continued to be a family affair for both men. Rodgers' oldest son, Terrell, worked there before graduating from college. (Rodgers also has another son, Jayson, 9.) Justice's twins, Amber and Ashley, who are 20-year-old Lander University students, work at the restaurant when they are home. Justice's mother, the late Bobbie Justice, who was food supervisor at Oakmont Nursing Home, also worked there and you will find his father, Bert, there most business nights visiting with customers.
Both men often have to rush from their weekly jobs to make it to the restaurant, but they said they wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's a change, going from one job to the next," Rodgers said. "But I like to cook."
Rodgers cooks most of the buffet items, including the shrimp, calabash shrimp, oysters, hushpuppies, fries, onion rings, hot wings and deviled crabs. Justice specializes in chicken, chicken strips, whole flounder, flounder, perch and catfish
Justice and Rodgers have made few changes in the restaurant. They added Thursday as a buffet night rather than just on the weekends. They have added a few menu items like steaks, crab legs and a few side items.
Several years ago under their ownership Buffalo Seafood was recognized as one of the 10 best seafood restaurants in the state by readers of "Living in South Carolina" magazine.
Joann Bridges Parris and her family have been eating at Buffalo Seafood every weekend since it opened.
"It's been a family tradition for us," she said. "My mom and dad, (the late Dr. Joe and Sara Bridges) always looked forward to it. They knew on Thursday night we were going to go to the fish camp as a family."
Mrs. Parris, who also works with Justice at Upstate Evaluation, said she knows he buys good quality food and it meticulous about its preparation.
"He wants you to enjoy yourself," she said. "I appreciate that. Not every place is that way. I prefer the food there to the seafood at the beach. We sometimes go twice a week because my husband, John, loves it so much. And we love the oyster stew."
Phyllis Haney, her husband, Joe, and some of their family members eat at the fish camp every Thursday night.
"That is our Thursday night ritual," she said. "They offer not only good seafood but good hamburger steaks and charbroiled chicken. I love the catfish stew and Joe loves the oyster stew and the service is good."
Justice said he and Rodgers appreciate their customers.
"We want to thank everyone for their continued business," Justice said. "We thank our family and friends for helping us out."
This month, Justice and Rodgers plan to commemorate the anniversary with meal specials and giveaways. Ads will be posted in The Union Daily Times.