Atlantic City residents rallied on Friday in a bid to save a longtime food stalwart.
Fish Heads was said to be out of Gardner’s Basin, where Gregory “Dredgie” Wood served his famous fish sandwiches for the past seven years, after serving at other locations in town.
But the latest move, some say, is retaliation by the mayor.
Mayor Marty Small insisted the decision was not his, but was made as part of a Green Acres deal that only allowed two of Gardner’s Basin’s three restaurants to stay. These places went to Back Bay Ale House year-round and to Gilchrist’s as a seasonal establishment.
Wood acknowledged that he had been warned about the Green Acres problem for years. But nothing came of it until recently.
Former mayor Don Guardian, now a state assemblyman, said he brokered the Green Acres deal at one point and lobbied for the three restaurants to stay.
He explained that Fish Heads, Back Bay and Gilchrist’s were the reason people came to Gardner’s Basin and how they learned about the other things available there.
Those gathered in support Friday noted that Fish Heads is the only black-owned business in the basin. They also talked about Wood’s commitment to the community, especially children.
Hanifah Beyah said her granddaughter was 14 when she got her first job at Fish Heads. Because she was small, Wood had her work standing on a milk crate.
Now living in Atlanta, Beyah’s granddaughter was all set to hit Fish Heads during her Mother’s Day visit. When her grandmother told her about the latest issue, the 24-year-old said she wished she could be there to support her.
“He’s just a really nice person,” Beyah said of Wood. “He doesn’t deserve this.”
She recalled how Wood saw her having trouble with her son one day. He took the boy aside and spoke to him.
“I never had any problems with him after that,” she said. “He graduated from high school in 2019.”
The allegations are that it was Wood’s inclination to help the town’s youth that caused his problems.
Dr. La’Quetta Small, the mayor’s wife, allegedly disputed that she ever saw a boy at Fish Heads.
The child, according to local National Action Network activist Steve Young, was the victim of Dr. Small’s cousin, Ka’yan Frazier.
Frazier is serving a federal prison sentence for creating child pornography. He met one of the victims when he was a substitute teacher at Pennsylvania Avenue School, where Dr. Small was then principal.
The boy’s mother is now suing the school district and the Smalls, alleging they knew about the abuse.
The mayor declined to comment on the rally, but said he worked to get Fish Heads to offer to move to The Walk.
Wood said his company couldn’t go there in its current form. He also insisted the mayor never spoke to him about the matter.
“He should be here,” Yvette Hunter said of the mayor.
“It’s supposed to be about your community,” she said.
Young said if necessary, they would rally every day to fight for Fish Heads.