Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Musings, opinions, observations, questions, and random thoughts on island life, Fernandina Beach and more

Will The “Looks-Like-An-Airplane” Terminal Top Atlanta’s “Big Chicken” As An Attraction?

That munching sound is me eating my words.

When local restaurateur Tim Poynter (Karibo, Karibrew and the Timoti’s Seafood Shak chain) was serving as a Fernandina Beach City Commissioner he emphatically told me over a beer at his Karibrew bar that I was badly mistaken for ridiculing the city’s proposed new “It-looks-like-an-airplane” airport terminal.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s the building just off Amelia Island Parkway that resembles a fast food joint with two drive throughs and boasts a tail and nose that have nothing to do with the nearby Humane Society.

Close but no cigar!

It ‘s reminiscent of an era when Sinclair Oil Company gas stations where built to resemble dinosaurs, some  motel rooms out west looked like huge teepees, an Atlanta’s fried chicken joint became the legendary “Big Chicken”  landmark, and ….well, you get the picture.

The designers, builders and enthusiastic Fernandina Beach city official boosters say the new airport terminal is intended to resemble a 4FU Corsair that flew out of the local airport during World War II.

Tim confidently and vigorously told me that the design was so unique that it would someday be featured on the covers of various aviation industry magazines. I replied that the only covers that odd design would grace would be Mad Magazine or the National Onion.

Well, Tim was right and so far I’ve been wrong. Take a look for yourself by going to Airport Improvement magazine’s site at:

Fernandina Beach’s “It-looks-like-an-airplane-airport-terminal” was the most prominent of the five airport projects featured on the cover of the June-July issue of this website magazine that claims to attract 41,656 visitors each issue.

The article says the building  resembles an airplane when it’s viewed from the air, which most of us will probably not be doing.

The “It-looks-like-an-airplane-from-the-air” terminal cost $4.4 million and the city manager, pro-terminal city commissioners, and others with a stake in this thing, say that much of that money will be  recouped though increased airport revenues because of the new design.

According to the magazine article, those in charge say that in addition to being an attractive airport to fly in and out of, the new terminal will be an alluring venue for “luncheons, business meetings and weddings.” Weddings?

“Hey Sally Mae we’re going to Amelia Island with its luxurious resorts and beautiful beaches and get hitched up at the airport there. Whadaya think ’bout that?”

“Buford, you stupid twit, I think yer gonna be a very lonely old bachelor.”

The new12,500 square-foot terminal will also feature an observation deck so folks can observe whatever it is that folks can observe from it such as the dog park at the nearby Human Society, the Avis Rental Car parking lot, and area landmarks including the giant Rayonier wood chip pile, and pine trees. Maybe a airplane will land or one will take off if they observe long enough. Exciting family fun.

I could be all wet here. But I don’t understand how this new terminal will increase revenues. Will pilots and their passengers head here because the terminal looks like an airplane? I’m not a pilot but I know people who are and they tell me that the design of the airport terminal is not part of the equation when selecting a destination. I’ve been a passenger on very, very small and very, very big airplanes, and not once was an airport terminal ever a destination factor in any of my hundreds of trips.

Many times while flying into Atlanta, I’ve heard pilots announce: “If you look out the window you’ll see the Big Chicken” but I’ve never met anyone who flew to Atlanta expressly to see it or visit it. I lived there four different times and never went, not once.

However, if  the new “It-looks-like-an-airplane” terminal appeal proves me wrong about all this then I’ll eat my second helping of words.


Speaking Of Government Silliness: While the Nassau County Commissioners approved the spending of  $47,000 for Jacksonville agency Burdette/Ketchum to design a new logo and create a tag line in an ill-advised effort to rebrand the county and attract additional businesses, tourists, etc. at the same time it’s been talking about slashing the budget for the Nassau County Economic Development Board (NCEDB), a local organization that actually has a sterling record of success doing just that.

The Nassau County Economic Development Board is a public-private partnership with the objective of attracting and retaining businesses to the county and then providing support once they’re here.

About 40 percent of NCEDB’s annual budget of $398,750 comes from government entities including Nassau County, Fernandina Beach, Callahan, Hilliard, etc. while the 60 percent bulk is contributed by local businesses and business organizations. Nassau County’s share this fiscal year is $150,000. Out of its overall budget the NCEDB pays all its expenses including salaries.

Based on numbers I requested from the NCEDB it appears that the Board’s Director, Laura  DiBella, and her two-person staff and two unpaid college interns are doing a bang-up job. Since 2016 alone, under Ms. DiBella’s leadership, this organization has attracted a variety of new companies that have generated more than $224 million in capital investment and 325 jobs. These range from  Ligno Tech with a capital expenditure of $151 million and 51 new jobs to Salt Life’s $1.4 million land purchase and an estimated 180 new jobs at Main Beach. Movie fans on Amelia Island can thank the group for attracting the South 14th B&B Movie Theater complex. Other projects include a new Hampton Inn in Yulee, Mocama Brewery, Southeast RV and Boat Storage, UF Health ambulatory center and offices, and many more.

Ms. DiBella and her staff currently have in their recruitment pipeline a mix of organizations ranging from medical device and heavy equipment manufacturers to corporate offices and developers that represent more than $250 million more in capital expenditures and will bring with them some 400 jobs.

In an nutshell since 2014 the county has invested $600,000 in the NCEDB and in return has realized the creation of more than 520 jobs and well over $266 million in capital investment, a whopping 360 percent annualized return. And the fiscal year doesn’t end until September 30 so these numbers will obviously increase.

Is this worth $47,000 of tax payer money?

These impressive numbers indicate that instead of wasting almost $50,000 of our tax dollars on a stupid railroad spike and pot leaf logo (pictured here because you wouldn’t believe it unless you see it) and a silly “True to Our Nature” tag line, the county should be directing that  funding into the successful NCEDB and not wasting it on an out-of- town ad agency that speaks fluent gibberish. Ask the Burkett/Ketchum agency what the county’s expected return on its almost $50,000 investment will be. They’ll probably get an incomprehensible answer about metrics and deliverables.

By the way, who at the county is in charge of this branding project? And if whoever it is isn’t  going to drive a spike through the heart of this preposterous branding agency nonsense then give what’s left of that money to Ms. DiBella and her staff and ask them to come up with suggestions or determine if it’s even necessary. That’s their job and they’re obviously very good at what they do. Check them out at

Folks interested in supporting the good work being done by Ms. DiBella and her group should attend public meetings of the BOCC, June 20th at 9 am and June 25th at 6 pm at 96135 Nassau Place, Yulee where Ms. DiBella will be presenting or call or email your county commissioner and let him know what you think. Or call the county at 904/530-6010 or contact the county manager’s office at at


Driving the ASPCA Crazy:  Chuck Hall, a local Web developer and Microsoft Systems engineer, who was born and grew up in Fernandina Beach, is familiar to many locals and visitors as the “funny guy who wears a bowler hat” and is the master of ceremonies at the downtown Fernandina Beach Sounds on Centre music events held monthly every May through October.

But Chuck, who is also current president of the Historic Fernandina Beach Business Association, boasts another unofficial title that helps make our community so distinctive. He’s an accomplished banjo player and very likeable town character, with a familiar grasp of the community’s past and the players who helped shape it. If you need information about what happened here and when, Chuck is one of your go-to-guys.

Chuckie Junior’s Sunday drive.

In this case, however, it’s a chapter out of  Chuck’s past that you’d have to be a very, very old old-timer to recall. It appears that some 63 years ago, circa 1955, Chuck and his family would drive around town with the family pooch perched firmly on the front of their car, like a living hood ornament.

Chuck says that the minute the dog heard the car crank up, he bolted from wherever he was and planted himself firmly onto the hood, refusing to get off.  Chuck says he was just five years old when he first experienced his namesake family pet, “Chuckie Junior”, sitting on the hood as the family drove around town, and shared this 1955 photo to prove he wasn’t making this goofy story up.

It’s folks like Chuck and stories like this that make this area so much fun to live in.


If You Like Cardboard, You’ll Love Florida Citrus: If you’ve purchased Florida citrus from any of the big box grocery stores or even a local fruit stand this year you’re probably wondering — like the rest of us — why it tastes like one of the local West Rock mill’s corrugated box products, except not as succulent. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture our state’s citrus industry experienced the worst growing season since World War II thanks to being whacked by Hurricanes Matthew and Irma and a 10-year citrus greening disease. The 49.58 million boxes this year marks the lowest yield for growers since they filled 48.65 million boxes in the 1941-1942 season. By 1950, the industry was producing 100 million boxes a year. And what was salvaged tastes awful. I don’t know about you but as much as I like oranges, tangerines, tangelos, etc. I won’t buy citrus from California, Spain, South Africa or anywhere else outside of Florida. It’d be like ordering bratwurst and sauerkraut in Israel.


Ops burger

Oops I Liked Ops A Little Bit: The two Fat Men From Space burger reviewers have apparently been sucked into a black hole as I haven’t heard from them in a few weeks despite the fact they still had four more burger joints to review for this site including Crab Trap, Pogo’s, Bar Zin and Ops. Maybe they’re unhappy with the pay and expense accounts with are non-existent. Slackers! So, in desperation I substituted as a Fat Man this past Wednesday, when I joined pals Joe Murphy and Jeff McDowell, at Ops Pizza Kitchen and Cafe for lunch. I wasn’t expecting much by ordering a burger in a pizza joint and my low expectations were justified, but not by a lot. Hey, it’s a pizza joint. While Joe and Jeff happily chowed down on spaghetti, veal parmigiana, etc. I may have been the only dinner in the place that ordered  a burger —  the “Ops Classic Burger”, a six-ounce piece of Angus beef served on a toasted brioche roll with raw onions and tomatoes, and hold the lettuce please. It came with big fat fries. The burger was OK, but just OK, nothing to write home about. The tomato and onion looked like they were plucked off the nearby salad bar, as they were cut up rather than sliced, but fresh. I had to ask for mustard. Want cheese? It’s $1.25 extra. There are six six-ounce burgers listed on the menu ranging in price from $8.99 to $12.99 – a ghastly sounding pimento cheese-slathered item called “Flying Buffalo Burger” that comes with a couple of chicken wings and fries. My $8.99 burger with ice tea totaled $12.03 with tax, not including tip. It may be unfair doing a hamburger review in a pizza joint, but I did discover something that will have me returning often, a sign advertising Ops’ $1.00 pizza slices and $2.59 beers between 2-5 p.m. It also featured a small four stool bar. I’ll also be back to try the place’s signature thin crust pizza and other Italian dishes that my luncheon companions told me were excellent and well worth the money. Ops is tucked away on 2030 South 8th Street in Fernandina Beach, directly behind the Beach Dinner, the corner of Sadler and South 8th. It’s a little tricky getting to it and the easiest way I’ve found is to go through the Beach Diner’s parking lot. Call ’em at 904/277-8665 or go to       


Drinking, Dining & Dancing: Later this year Tony’s New York Style Brick Oven Pizza & Restaurant at 1425 Sadler Road will move from its current 13-year location next to Publix, around the corner into the empty space once occupied by Beef O’Brady’s facing South 14th Street. The new digs will give what I think is the best thin crust pizza joint on the island four times more space that it currently has and bar seating with at least 15 stools or more. I’m told that the menu will expand to offer burgers, possibly steaks and more. However, the delicious pizza will not be sacrificed but the biggest headache Tony and his brother, Joey, face is moving their massive brick oven into the new location. If they can come up with a decent happy hour beer price, they’ll pack the place. Call ’em at 904/277-7661 or 904/277-7019.

  • Comment (16)
  • while I have not tried burgers from every location on the island, my favorite place is the Amelia Tavern. Followed by Tasty’s and T Rays (tied).. My least favorite one? Sandbar by a landslide, and I tried theirs twice.

  • My favorite OPS meal is their super deluxe large pizza with everything – plus roasted sliced tomatoes on top. It’s double everything and serves about 8 hungry men or 14 women!

  • Dave,
    Leaving aside the question about whether the $50,000 logo is a good design, the price tag is an extraordinary waste of money! Maybe the Nassau County Board of Commissioners should get an unpaid college intern who would advise them that for as little as $5 they could have crowdsourced that project online and gotten at least a dozen better designs. For $99, a crowdsourced design project would have resulted in so many submissions that they would have had to hire a team to review them all. So perhaps the extra expense of hiring people to review hundreds of “free” designs would have eclipsed the $50,000 price of the pot leaf railroad spike effort. Great day at Burdette/Ketchum… bad day for Nassau County taxpayers.

    I could not agree more about the fantastic work being done by Ms. DiBella and the NCEDB. She and her team are genuine assets to this community and we are fortunate to have them!

  • Hi Dave,
    Have you tried Arte Pizza? Their food is excellent wood fire pizza to the chicken parmigiana and veal parmigiana to the panini’s and salad’s.

  • I’ve tried Tony’s Pizza twice. What I got both times was New York Style Service. A gaggle of twenty something girls hanging at the end of the bar. They just couldn’t be bothered on tending to customers. No thanks. Not in Fernandina, where I find the service stellar at so many other places.

  • Stop by The Amelia Tavern for a juicy burger w/ fries & a cold Margo beer. That’s right, they named a beer after moi!!

  • This is not good, I’m totally bewildered by it. Over the years, I’ve only agreed with “Poison Pen Dave” on two issues. The first was a couple years back. Remember the Fernandina Brain Trust hired some out of town expert to tell us, we needed to move our Ballfields out in the Boonies, and plant flowers and have a place for our four legged friends to poop.! and to rename our Atlantic Ave. to something Spanish.! Then, the Airport “Ruptured Duck” Terminal, which should increase tourist revenues, by approximately—$$$$ “0” Now, add to that a County Logo.?? Cost to Taxpayers $47,000.00 ?? Are you kidding me.! We live in a Community that is Blessed with; If your not a “Pickers”, you are a Painters, Potters, Poets, or in Dave’s case a Printer. Why in the World would these people go and spent $47,000 for this Shoddy, and I mean Shoddy sticker.! Nassau County is rich in History, there are so many options to be creative with. This thing ain’t it.!

  • Dave, I can’t speak to the ridiculousness that comes forth from our commission, but the burger business, well, let me just add my two cents worth. The photo was brilliantly lit and composed. The burger, however, looked like Lucy’s breakfast…

  • Love your analogy of the airport terminal building here and the Big Chicken in Atlanta. Very funny. Having grown up in Atlanta, I’m very familiar with that favorite landmark. I’m wondering if it is still there?

  • For Sally Bryan, YES, the Big Chicken on Cobb Parkway in Marietta is alive and well. Originally opened in 1963 and designed by a Georgia Tech architecture student (who some say a relative of his was involved in the FB airport terminal design), it was a landmark in north Atlanta and served as a key point for traffic directions (go towards the Big Chicken and then turn left…). The KFC Colonel took ownership in 1974. After damage in 1993 by strong winds, KFC considered tearing down the structure but375 to the local community support led them to change their decision and make a major investment in strengthening the internal structure, fixing the movement of the beak, new paint and other improvements. The entire complex went through a major renovation in 2017 with fresh paint for the chicken and an expansion of the dining facility. So drive down 14th Street towards the new airport terminal and when you see it turn left and head north for 375 miles to the Big Chicken.

  • Dave, this quote from your article: “Maybe a airplane will land or one will take off if they observe long enough.” may be the predictor of the next fiasco. Ya see, the master plan for the error-port includes a proposal to increase the runway length to 6000 feet. So you see, the current 5000 foot runway, longer than either Craig Field or further south Saint Augustine, which curiously now has commercial flights from Minnesota to South America planned, may want to compete with a real airport like Jacksonville, a mere 25 miles or so from it. Since it is in “the plan” accepted by the FAA, and since other government entities will pay for most of it, I predict it will be acted upon as soon as the smoke clears from the rocket ride $1 million to $4.4 million terminal project.

  • Oh wow, I am getting scared more and more, Dave Scott and I agreeing on another topic, has the earth spun off its axis? Oh well, here goes…yup, that County logo AND its price tag is a waste of taxpayer money for sure! I would bet that we could have held a contest with all the talented people here, and asked for free ideas and renderings, and come up with a much better representation of our community AND FOR FREE! I mean really?!? A palmetto frond (I guess that’s what it is?), railroad tracks and a spike, what in the hell??? I guess David Yulee is being recognized for the RR, but that in itself is ridiculous, like the statue downtown (but don’t get me started). How about a pine tree and a Live Oak for starters (the pine would represent the pulp industry AND the Westside where the renewable resource is grown, and Live Oaks as part of coastal barrier island’s environment…then how about a Shrimp Boat (as in Fernandina, the Birthplace of the Shrimping Industry)? We might even consider sea turtles, or cattle or hell even a buzzard would be more interesting than the new logo (at least they have a role to play in our environment). Yup, the county should have taken that $47,000 and put it toward maybe synchronizing the traffic lights on SR200, and let us come up with the logo design..just my opinion though!

  • I see that Burdette Ketchum has acquired a Nashville firm that “specializes in branding for cities, tourism operations and economic development services in more than 200 communities in 42 states.” Makes you wonder how many times they have presented the “True to Our Nature” slogan to unsuspecting clients. At $50K each it could be quite lucrative.

  • You are spot on regarding the airport terminal. Gross incompetence to approve this.


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