“Cape Proud” of Eric Sugrue
As the Development Director of Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation and a proud mom of three Cape students, I have pondered greatly what people want to hear in a blog about CHSD. Finally, I had a ”Eureka” moment and realized what makes all of us who love Cape feel as if our educational system is working is simple; learning about super successful people who graduated from Cape. This makes all of us “Cape Proud”.
It is with this notion that Eric Sugrue , co-owner and creator of the Big Fish Group instantly came to mind. Eric graduated from Cape Henlopen High School in 1988 and immediately began pursuing his lifetime dream of opening a restaurant.
Over the past 18 years, Eric and his brother Norman (also a Cape Alum) have created a restaurant empire in our area. With nine restaurants and over 1,000 employees, the Sugrues have had a profound impact on our local community. Their restaurants are packed not only in peak season, but also on any given night during the dead of winter.
Eric always knew he was destined to be in the restaurant industry and after graduating from University of Delaware ; he fine-tuned his skills by learning from his mentor for several years in Tennessee. Following that, Eric worked in the DC restaurant industry for a time and then headed home to Sussex County.
It was in 1996 that Eric and his brother crafted the deal to open the original Big Fish Grill. The restaurant was opened by 97 and so the dream began. The Sugrues created a menu that instantly appealed to tourists and locals alike. Their most popular dish “Grilled Tuna with mashers (a term they created) topped with lobster sauce “remains on the menu to this day. In fact, 70% of the original Big Fish menu has stood the test of time and contributes largely to its long term success.
But what makes Eric different from others, is his perspective on the restaurant business and his unique ability to encourage and foster his staff in such a way that the entire organization runs daily like a well-oiled machine. This is no easy task when some nights the Sugrues’ restaurants feed 1,000 people.
Over the years, Eric’s passion has shifted from being about only the food to being about the people along for the ride. With this in mind, he has created a community with his employees where he consistently fosters growth, learning and success. When asked about other Cape Alumni joining his ranks at the Big Fish Group, Eric responded “Cape grads and students are great!”
In fact Eric’s three siblings also graduated from Cape, Norm (Eric’s Partner) and Jenny (a Cape Henlopen School Board Member) graduated in 1982 and their younger sister Holly graduated in 1993.
Eric Sugrue and family show their continual support of CHSD by supporting Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation (CHEF) annually. Their newly formed non-profit foundation gives a portion of the Big Fish Five K proceeds to CHEF. This year the run raised over $8,500 for CHEF.
For that, as a community we are certainly “Cape Proud” of Eric Sugrue, CHHS alumnus, Class of 1988.