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Our Story

Opened in June 2005, Rusty Bellies embodies the dreams nurtured by three generations of our family, spanning more than forty years. We are family-owned and operated, with our roots in Tarpon Springs dating back to the 1970s. 

The business began with my grandparents, Joe and Sue Reis. In the 70's the moved to Tarpon with the intention of commercial fishing. They purchased a small piece of waterfront and a few fishing boats, including a shrimp boat. Over time they expanded and developed the boatyard, where my grandfather built and refurbished many commercial fishing boats. They eventually they built a modest retail seafood market, J. Reis Seafood (now Pelican Point Seafood).

In 1985, operations were passed to my parents, Jack and Julie Russell. My father, Jack, operated the boatyard and ran the boats. My mother, Julie, was at the helm of the fish market, Pelican Point Seafood. I grew up in the market and worked in the retail until leaving for college. It was, and always has been, a true family business.

In 2002, Jack completed the build of the Julie Ann, an 85ft steel shrimp boat. The Julie Ann was constructed to provide fresh Gulf shrimp to Pelican Point Seafood. At that time, few shrimp boats remained in Tarpon Springs and our seafood market was in need of Florida Gulf shrimp. It didn't hurt that Jack was a great welder, so he got to work building the boat by hand on this very property. Jack also refurbished the Redman, a grouper fishing boat, the Bad Ginger, a grouper boat, and the Miss Wyolene, a stone crab boat. Still to this day, the Julie Ann, Redman, Bad Ginger, and Miss Wyolene remain integral parts of providing seafood to our guests. Our fleet of boats are still operated by our family, with the help of some great local fishermen.

In 2005, Rusty Bellies was built on the boatyard property and was opened by Julie, Jack, myself, and Keaton, who was, at the time, my soon-to-be-husband. Nearly nineteen years later, you will most likely see our children lending a hand in the dining room and paving their way as the 4th generation of our family business.

We chose the name Rusty Bellies as it pays homage to our family's passion for Gulf grouper fishing. The "Rusty Bellie" is the nickname for the large male gag grouper, typically ranging between twenty and sixty pounds, with "rust" colored markings on its underbelly. 

As you look around our restaurant, you'll see photos of our precious family, friends, and local fishermen who bring the freshest seafood directly to our dock. The menu honors fishermen by naming dishes after their beloved boats, recognizing their dedication to providing fresh Florida wild-caught seafood. We are committed to supporting the local working waterfront and local fishermen. By dining with us, you are truly making a difference by supporting the local seafood industry. We are grateful to our guests and feel honored to have you dine with us. We welcome you to stop in, relax, enjoy the view, and let us prepare the freshest seafood for you.

Jacquelyn, Keaton, Julie, and Jack  (Coco and Major too!)