Tacky Jacks stands test of time

Grows through hurricanes from humble bait shop to iconic Orange Beach establishment

Lifestyle Editor
Posted 8/11/23

ORANGE BEACH — Sitting around a table at an iconic Orange Beach restaurant, surrounded by brightly colored duct tape from floor to ceiling, Meagan Skipper Hoven, Ken Kilcher and Susan Sizemore …

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Tacky Jacks stands test of time

Grows through hurricanes from humble bait shop to iconic Orange Beach establishment


ORANGE BEACH — Sitting around a table at an iconic Orange Beach restaurant, surrounded by brightly colored duct tape from floor to ceiling, Meagan Skipper Hoven, Ken Kichler and Susan Sizemore rack their brains.

They all agree the finer origin story details are lost to the past. Even the exact date the original Tacky Jack's opened.

"The T-shirt says 1980 I think, but none of us know the answer to that," said Ken Kichler, the restaurant's CFO, with a smile.

Susan Sizemore, their marketing director added, "Well, we go with 1980. We ordered some things for the gift shop, and the same company put 1980 on some and 1979 on some."

As the story goes, according to Sizemore, Kichler, the Tacky Jacks website and past news articles, Tacky Jacks opened in early 1980 (or 1979) as a small bait and tackle shop by Jack Hodges. At the time, Orange Beach was an unincorporated area of Baldwin County. It did not become an incorporated town until Aug. 1, 1984.

But what about the name?

"The story is Jack Hodges was trying to get a license and asked what they should call the place. His wife said, 'Oh well it's tacky and you're Jack so let's call it Tacky Jacks,'" Sizemore said.

She isn't sure of the validity of the story, but it is the story she heard and said it sounds good.

According to all accounts, Tacky Jacks was a popular spot with the local fisherman and opened a small bar and grill that became known for its breakfast.

"There was a big breakfast market before other things. Breakfast was the big draw because people were headed out fishing," Sizemore said. "They would come early, go downstairs, have breakfast and wait in line. There was a wait to get in."

The second owner of Tacky Jacks was a man named Mark who, according to Kilcher, had a reputation for being a grumpy guy who liked to yell at jet skiers, but everyone loved his wife, Ellie.

"I didn't know them, so this is just repeating gossip," Kichler said.

In 1987, the late George "Buddy" Skipper purchased Tacky Jacks from Mark, and the business has been in the Skipper family ever since.

Meagan Skipper Hoven, Skipper's granddaughter, now lives in Orange Beach and is an active part of the business. Her father and uncles inherited the business after Skipper died in a car accident in Clarke County in February 2022.

"It is all kind of a new transition because it has only been a little over a year since he died, so everything is new in that aspect," Hoven said.

Hoven said all her memories include Tacky Jacks because she was born just before it became part of the family.

"My first memories come from when I was 6, 7, 8 years old. I can remember coming in here, and this was a lot different," Hoven reminisced. "The bar was over here, and my grandfather always sat right there," she said, pointing to the table by the window. "We came in here, and that is where we sat."


According to Hoven, Skipper dabbled in many businesses over the years. He wasn't a restaurateur, but he was a natural host.

He also enjoyed a project, and Hoven joked that adding on is a Skipper family thing.

If you have ever visited Tacky Jacks in Orange Beach and thought it seems to be a mashup of many different buildings, you would be right. In 2006, when Kilcher was hired, the restaurant had seating for about 200. It currently has 400 seats.

"It was an organic transition," Kichler said. "We had this, and then let's add on. Mr. Skipper was always about what else can we do. He would do it; the city would come by and say we can't do that, and then we would have to figure out how to redo it. It was a lot of fun."

While additions changed the building and business, so have the hurricanes. The restaurant is perched on the water's edge and offers amazing views of the Perdido Pass and Bird Island, but the location makes it prime for hurricane damage.

Hurricane Ivan was the first big hit, but the rebuild increased the deck size. Hurricane Sally carried away the docks, which have been rebuilt, and wreaked havoc on the gift shop.


Giving back to the community started early after Skipper purchased the business, and it continues to this day.

Anyone who has ever driven past a Tacky Jacks location has seen the Marlin and maybe even had a photo taken with it.

"The fish used to be on the wall in here, and when I got here, we remodeled and it got put in storage," Kichler said. "One day, we were in storage and someone said we should hang the fish up so people could see it. We put it in the parking lot. Next thing you know we see everybody taking their pictures with the fish. Then we built a stand. Mr. Skipper said we were going to add a donation box and raise money for charity."

Tacky Jacks matches every dollar donated. When they first started, the money was donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but over the years Skipper shifted it to Veteran-focused charities. Money raised has been used to purchase all-terrain wheelchairs for veterans and to support charities like Operation ReConnect and others.

Tacky Jacks has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The philanthropy and community involvement extends beyond Veteran organizations. Each year, all three Tacky Jacks locations — since the flagship spot in Orange Beach, the restaurant has expanded to Gulf Shores and Fort Morgan — send invitations to each first responder in the area and offer to feed them for a week for free during First Responder Week. They supply report card cards to the elementary schools, support local sports teams and have been involved with the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Sports Tourism since the beginning.

When asked what it means to have this business in her family, Hoven said, "It is really cool. He (Buddy) has had it ever since I was alive, so my whole life I grew up coming here. We love it. We love that everyone loves it, and we want it to continue to be what it is."