The fast-growing DeeO’s Seafood will soon open a second restaurant, this time in Midtown.

Co-owners Desmond Rhyan and Alphonso Johnson have signed a seven-year-plus lease with Loeb Properties for 711 E. Parkway at Central. That’s the space in the strip center on the northwest corner where 901 Grill closed in September.

Much of DeeO’s popularity is built on the seasonings and flavors it cooks into the shrimp boil, as well as crab, lobster and salmon.

“Unbelievable” is how Johnson described the pace of business at DeeO’s current location, 2256 N. Germantown Parkway.

“We outgrew our first location within five or six months,” he said, referring to 8095 Macon Road where DeeO’s opened its first restaurant in November 2018 before graduating from that space in May.

Much of the marketing has occurred by word of mouth and through social media. Some customers have been driving 30 miles to visit the Cordova restaurant just south of Interstate 40 and Germantown Parkway, Johnson said.

Getting closer to more customers

The goal is to open the Midtown restaurant by Nov. 1.

“I thought we needed to expand more to get closer to people coming from Downtown, Arkansas and Mississippi,” Johnson said.

DeeO’s Seafood co-owner Desmond Rhyan plates up a seafood boil during lunch on Tuesday, Oct. 1. (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian)
DeeO’s Seafood co-owner Desmond Rhyan plates up a seafood boil during lunch on Tuesday, Oct. 1. (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian)
About $125,000 is being spent to renovate the Midtown space, including installation of a new heating and air-conditioning unit, Barry D. Maynard said.

The vice president of brokerage for Gill Properties represented DeeO’s Seafood in brokering the lease with landlord Loeb Properties. Chris Heinz of Loeb Properties represented the landlord.

The hope is, Maynard said, to open more DeeO’s Seafood restaurants in places like Downtown, Collierville, North Mississippi and East Memphis. Rhyan and Johnson anticipate opening one new restaurant each year.

The business partners are also negotiating franchise agreements in other cities, including Nashville and Huntsville.

Seafood: The new chicken wing

If there’s something in the Memphis air, it’s the aroma of cooked seafood.

Seafood restaurants are trending, judging by the recent openings of places like The Juicy Crab, Saltwater Crab, Red Hook and Ocean Blue.

Asked to explain the phenomenon, Rhyan responded, “I think it’s like another era of chicken wings. At one point, chicken wings were a big success. And now it’s time for seafood to become the next success.”

Even with the seasoning and butter, boiled seafood is a healthier option than fried food, he said, adding that the millennial generation seems more health conscious.

Beginnings

Rhyan, 29, and Johnson, 34, have been friends for 15 years. Among the activities they enjoyed doing together was cooking seafood at their homes on Sundays.

A couple of years ago, Rhyan held two jobs as a certified nurse assistant at Baptist Hospital and as a delivery driver for a geriatric medical-equipment company.

Johnson was an entrepreneur, and he still owns Absolute Best Cleaning.

“DeeO’s” combines pieces of their names, Desmond and Alphonso.

The restaurant’s roots trace to the lack of dining options for night-shift nurses at the hospital where Rhyan worked. The cafeteria closed early, leaving the hospital’s in-house Starbucks and its limited food offerings as the only option, Rhyan said. And the coffee shop closed by 11 p.m.

DeeO’s Seafood co-owner Desmond Rhyan (left) and Alphonso Johnson will soon open a second location in Midtown, in the strip center at the northwest corner of East Parkway and Central. (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian)
DeeO’s Seafood co-owner Desmond Rhyan (left) and Alphonso Johnson will soon open a second location in Midtown, in the strip center at the northwest corner of East Parkway and Central. (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian)
Seizing an opportunity two years ago, Rhyan started making and selling to his co-workers $10 bowls of seasoned shrimp, corn on the cob, oven-roasted potatoes, turkey sausage and a hard-boiled egg. The meals caught on, and the shrimp boil resonated with others outside of work when Rhyan posted his food photos on Facebook.

The added work came naturally; he’s been cooking seafood since he was 15.

“I wanted to create a healthy but filling bowl, and came up with the $10 shrimp bowl: Six to 7 shrimp, corn on the cob, potatoes, egg and turkey sausage.”

He offered the seafood boil in different seasonings: Cajun, Parmesan garlic or lemon/pepper.

Soon, Rhyan put 100,000 miles on his 2016 Dodge Charger by delivering seafood to employees at other hospitals and businesses. Not long after that, Rhyan started a food-truck business and quit his other jobs.

Johnson, the seasoned entrepreneur and friend, suggested they start a brick-and-mortar restaurant.