FENWICK ISLAND – “Have you been here before?”
That’s the first thing a customer is asked upon entering Bahamas Crabshack. If the answer is no, the next thing you’ll hear is proprietor Bill Connell explaining the eatery’s unusual practice of weighing crabs. While most restaurants sell crabs by length, Connell sells them by weight. That way, he says, customers are never disappointed with empty or light crabs.
“We have guaranteed fat crabs,” Connell said. “We weigh the crabs. If it’s a jumbo, we know it weighs a half a pound.”
Bahamas Crabshack, located just over the state line in Fenwick Island, is a staple in the resort area. True to its name, the tiny wooden building specializes in steamed crabs and Connell, who runs the shop with his son John, is a familiar face to many. He does his best to make sure customers come back year after year. With a system no more complicated than notes jotted on scraps of paper, he makes sure patrons get the promised heavy crabs quickly.
“We’ve got a 100 percent guarantee on everything,” Connell said. “We make a few mistakes here and there like anybody else but we make them right.”
Though crabs make up the bulk of its inventory, Bahamas Crabshack also sells scallops, shrimp, crab cakes and other seafood. Connell says in spite of the shop’s modest appearance, the seafood sold there is top quality.
“They look like hockey pucks don’t they?” he said, holding up a bag of scallops. “Everything about us is premium. As premium as the best quality restaurant in Ocean City.”
Though he spent decades as a high school math teacher, Connell has put in 17 years at the crab shack. Since taking over as owner of Bahamas three years ago, Connell has added some outdoor seating to the facility and increased signage so customers can find the little shop. Together, he and his son now operate the crab shack as well as One Fish Two Fish in Salisbury.
In a resort choked with full service restaurants, Connell says the crab shack offers customers something different — a quick place to get fresh seafood. A quick meal means vacationers have more time to spend with their families at the beach.
“Eating elsewhere it’s a four-hour extravaganza,” Connell said. “Here you get something quicker and it’s cheaper.”
Lots of vacationing families visit the crab shack for their annual summer crab feasts. A woman stopped by the shop this week to order crabs for just such an event. She said she represented a group of three families that have been vacationing in Fenwick Island for 45 years. The patriarchs of each family — Thomas Silcott, Marshall Love and Bucky Kimmett — met during the Korean War and stayed in touch. They bring their families together for a week each July in Fenwick Island and in recent years have become familiar faces at Bahamas Crabshack. They’re feeding 125 people this year.
“We’re getting 36 to 40 dozen crabs,” the woman said.
Connell says that like those families, most of the people he serves are repeat customers. For those who aren’t, he encourages them to stop by.
“Our prices are reasonable and we’re quick,” he said. “If you’re really in a hurry call ahead.”