Online orders take pinch off crab sellers
USA Today, excerpt
By Eric Ruth, The Wilmington, DE News Journal
These days, Delaware crabbers and crab merchants are serving delicious local blue-claw crabs three ways — steamed, stuffed or shipped.
Crab addicts and expatriate East Coasters from around the nation are fueling a growing market for mail-order crustaceans, boosting the fortunes of one Delaware restaurant and inspiring dreams of Internet entrepreneurship elsewhere in the state.
Whether they're sent cooked, live or patted into cakes, the jet-set crabs are adding to the region's seafood reputation and broadening the reach of a methodical eating ritual that once was a local phenomenon.
"I've been addicted to them," said 45-year-old Margaret Kiefer, a New Yorker whose Brooklyn roots are betrayed by her accent and whose newfound love for Delaware crab has resulted in a 24-cake-a-month habit.
Her supplier is only too willing to mail the next fix north — or south, or anywhere else in the nation.
But crabs, and more significantly crab cracking, also inspire an almost spiritual adoration that for some can only be satisfied with a pile of whole, steamed and seriously spicy crustaceans.
Not many know the depths of that love better than "Captain" Bob Wisowaty, former owner of Wiso's Crab House (now Kathy's) in Delaware City, Del.
A crabber and crab merchant since age 12, the 55-year-old aims to launch a mail-order website in spring to supplement the carryout business he runs.
Wisowaty and crew already contend with chaotic business during crab season and must still figure out the intricacies of Web design, payment procedures, shipping and the thousands of other details of mailing perishable food thousands of miles in just one day.
Greg Cain knows those aggravations well. He's run CrabPlace.com out of Crisfield, Md., for 10 years, building it into a $2 million-a-year business that's growing 25% to 30% annually.
Success means constantly monitoring where the crabs are running and continually staying abreast of computer and billing issues, said Cain, whose 10-person staff includes a full-time computer technician and graphic designer
Some seasons — such as this year — the wily crabs can be plentiful but not inclined to take the bait, Wisowaty said.