Nobody can recall exactly what Fred Scott was doing out on the dock behind his restaurant, The Wreck of the Richard & Charlene. But everyone who was there that night remembers Scott fell into Shem Creek, because he then tromped through the dining room, dripping with pluff mud.
“We just cleaned up and went on,” says former employee Adrienne Ciaburri, perhaps because the hand-picked staff had grown accustomed to Scott’s impatience with public opinion and his unstinting Charleston pride. Of course, he wouldn’t allow a little bit of marsh to alter his route.
“He was the most brilliant and eccentric man,” says Ciaburri, now co-owner of Congress in Mount Pleasant. “He was a character and a half.”
Scott died Dec. 26 at his home in Mount Pleasant. He was 87. The cause of death was not released, but health problems in 2016 forced him to give up day-to-day management duties at The Wreck, named for a trawler demolished by Hurricane Hugo. “He didn’t want to take his hands off it,” Ciaburri says.
Calls to the restaurant for comment were not returned.
By the time Scott and his wife, Patricia, opened The Wreck, Scott had already wrapped up a pair of professional stints as a poultry farmer and an attorney. But he was keen to re-create the rustic shrimp shacks he patronized as a boy in Charleston, where his family in 1936 relocated from Fort Worth, Texas.
As The Post and Courier’s Jane Kronsberg described the restaurant in a review published soon after its 1992 opening, “If you are looking for something fancy, or even remotely so, this isn’t the place for you. There is no air conditioning or heat, no decoration ... no pretenses whatsoever.”
Still, the humble restaurant had no trouble attracting customers from the start, in part because Scott was a community leader who had once chaired the Charleston County Republican Party: Gov. James B. Edwards in 1978 awarded him the Order of the Palmetto for his contributions to the state. So many of the Scotts’ friends showed up for The Wreck’s opening night that the restaurant briefly ran out of shrimp, Ciaburri says.
“He’d made arrangements with shrimp boats to dock there, and on opening night, he was pulling shrimp out of the hull himself,” she says.
Kronsberg described the shrimp as “heavenly,” a ruling that’s been reaffirmed many times since. “The quality and care that goes into every one of their perfectly golden seafood platters is unsurpassed,” "Top Chef" judge Gail Simmons wrote in Conde Nast Traveler. Food writers Matt and Ted Lee also have praised The Wreck’s she-crab soup, calling it their favorite rendition of the local classic.
Tradition has always reigned supreme at The Wreck, which arranged to keep serving Henry’s deviled crabs even after maker Skip Shaffer otherwise discontinued commercial production. When Scott turned over the restaurant to a longtime employee, he insisted that she not install air conditioning or upgrade the paper plates.
“A lot of times, Fred’s attitude with the entire restaurant was, ‘This is the way I’m doing it, and people either love it or hate it,’” Ciaburri says. “He loved local seafood and he was so proud of being from Charleston: It was always his intention to maintain the landscape of Shem Creek and not change.”
Services for Scott will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church, followed by burial in Christ Church Cemetery. His family will hold a reception from 6-8 p.m. Friday at J. Henry Stuhr Memorial Chapel, 1494 Mathis Ferry Road. Scott is survived by his wife; sister Adalia Rhodes; brother William Scott; four children and eight grandchildren.