Phillips Celebrates A Century Of Seafood; Family Began Processing On Hoopers Island In 1914

Phillips Celebrates A Century Of Seafood; Family Began Processing On Hoopers Island In 1914
Phillips Seafood President and CEO Steve Phillips is pictured at last week’s anniversary launch celebration at Phillips Crab House. Photo by Terri French

OCEAN CITY — The 100-year anniversary of the Phillips family’s first foray into seafood is being celebrated this summer with a number of special programs.

At last Thursday’s Phillips Seafood’s 100th Anniversary Celebration Launch Party, held at Phillips Crab House on 21st Street, special plans to mark the century of seafood were unveiled.

Phillips Seafood President and CEO Steve Phillips, who grew up on Hoopers Island in the Chesapeake Bay and resided there till he was 14 years old, recalled the early days of the family business, which has grown from humble beginnings to include eight full-service restaurants, over a dozen franchise units, seafood processing plants in southeast Asia and a full manufacturing division.

In 1914, the first A.E. Phillips seafood processing business was opened on Hoopers Island, processing mainly crabs, oysters and fish from the Chesapeake Bay.

In 1956, Phillips Crab House opened in Ocean City under the leadership of Brice and Shirley Phillips, who are Steve Phillips’ parents. In the 1970s, two more Ocean City locations were added, as Phillips Seafood House opened in North Ocean City and Phillips Beach Plaza Hotel opened on the Boardwalk.

The 1980s saw major growth as Phillips expanded to Baltimore with the opening of Phillips Harborplace and to Washington, D.C. with the Phillips Flagship.

In an effort to cope with Maryland blue crab supply issues, Steve Phillips went overseas in search of crab processing plants in the 1990s. He built processing plants in southeast Asia and began producing pasteurized crab meat.

In the 2000s, Phillips moved into franchising with more than 10 airport and travel locations and continued to grow retail divisions by offering a full range of crab cakes, seafood appetizers and much more.

In the 2010s, new airport and casino locations were opened as well as the new Phillips Crab Decks in Baltimore and Annapolis. Additionally, the company acquired Panache Creative Cuisine, which products artisan sandwiches, salads and fresh entrees.

“We really owe our success to Maryland watermen, who are out there working hard every day catching crabs, oysters and the fish that we all enjoy at the many restaurants throughout Maryland. I have always had a love for the watermen,” said Steve Phillips. “I certainly hope we go on for another 100 years.”

Along those lines, Phillips Seafood has produced a cookbook filled with many of Shirley Phillips’ original family recipes as well as dozens of others from employees and contest winners. A portion of all proceeds from the cookbook will be directed to the Maryland Watermen’s Association (MWA).

MWA President Robert T. Brown, Sr. was on hand at last week’s launch to recognize Phillips’ importance to his industry over the generations.

“On behalf of my industry, I tip my hat to the Phillips family for all you have done, including all the research and all the things nobody gets to see to help Maryland watermen,” said Brown. “I am happy to be here to celebrate the Phillips family and how they have promoted seafood and all they have done for the watermen and the Maryland seafood industry.”

Along with the cookbook, Phillips Corporate Director of Marketing Michelle Torres outlined three other ways the company will be marking its 100th anniversary. The blue crab margarita has been created to help celebrate the summer season and is available at all locations. Additionally, a social media campaign called Throwback Thursday has been launched that provides discounts on special menu items to customers who share, post or tweet about Phillips. The “Free Seafood for a Year” program is also running throughout the summer and guests can enter by simply liking Phillips on Facebook.