The Skrimp Shack, a Virginia chain that calls itself “home of the fattest fish sandwich,” plans to open two locations in the Fredericksburg area.

The first will open by Aug. 28 near the Hallmark store in Cosner’s Corner shopping center in Massaponax. The other is expected to open in September near the Weis Market in The Shops in England Run in Stafford County.

The Skrimp Shack, a quick service, “eat in and/or take out” eatery, sells fish by the pound, as well as a variety of fish, crab, shrimp and chicken sandwiches. Baskets and dinners—both of which come with a side and a drink—also are available, as are kids’ meals.

The restaurant’s Po Boys, served on a homemade hoagie roll with secret sauce, are a best seller, along with the fish sandwiches, said Stacey Hartman, a former restaurant manager who started the chain with her husband, Mitch Hartman.

He’d been selling fresh seafood out of a truck in a church parking lot when they decided to open a seafood market in the Lee Hall area of Warwick in 2011. They didn’t discover until after they’d signed the lease and gotten their business license that 80 percent of the business’s revenue had to come from cooked food.

Since they hadn’t planned on cooking and couldn’t afford expensive restaurant equipment, they bought fryers at Walmart and started making huge sandwiches using whatever fresh fish they had that day. The Hartmans sought input from their customers, and their menu evolved.

Two years later they were so busy that they moved to Yorktown. Unbeknownst to them, David Nicholson, the food editor at the Daily Press, ate there and wrote an article that ran on the front page of the paper.

“Co-owner Stacey Hartman recommended the Skrimp n Catfish Po Boy, so how could I refuse?,” he wrote in the article, which ran in 2014. “Served on a hoagie roll, the sandwich starts with a large filet of fried catfish piled high with fried shrimp. A garlicky sauce, served mild or spicy, that reminded me of remoulade was slathered on top. The spicy version packed some heat but not overwhelmingly so.”

Business, Stacey Hartman said, “just blew up.”

Soon she and her husband were preparing to open a second location when Carmen Wood said that she wanted to buy a The Skrimp Shack. She was “very persistent,” Stacey Hartman said, so the couple sold her the second location, which is in Hopewell. Today, there are 14 Skrimp Shacks along the East Coast, and seven more are expected to open by the end of the year.

“We have some great owners,” Stacy Hartman said. “We’re very employee friendly. We’ve helped two employees finance their locations.”

Among those owners are Jan and Jonathan Frank of Newport News, who’ve know the Hartmans for years and are the franchisees for the Stafford and Spotsylvania county locations. He’s designed some of their stores, and decided to get involved after seeing how well the chain was doing, Jan Frank said.

The Franks recently got an apartment in Massaponax, and have hired a general manager and assistant manager.

“We’re very excited about it,” Jan Frank said. “We’ve never been in the restaurant business. If we do well, we’ll do more.”

Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407

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