Owner of the Crab Shack finding success and making plans for his new venture

Published: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 11:29 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 11:29 a.m.
When approached with an opportunity to go into the restaurant business, a local man with no experience in the industry decided to give it a shot.
"The lady who owns this building also owns the building of my other business," said Bernard Long, the owner of the Crab Shack, and also the president of Tight Work Music, Videos & More. "After the soul food restaurant that used to be here closed down, she asked me if I knew anyone interested in opening a restaurant here." The Crab Shack is located at 104 NE Waldo Road.
Long said he didn't find anybody interested in opening a restaurant, but decided to invest in the restaurant business himself after being sold on the idea by someone who wanted to go into business with him. Long said after being convinced that a seafood restaurant would be a good idea in east Gainesville, he took the necessary steps to get the business up and running.
Long said he and his partner went their separate ways, and that left him having to quickly learn the restaurant business.
"After the soul food restaurant closed down, it took us about two weeks to open up for business," Long said.
Long said business has been extremely good, and he credits that with being able to give customers what they want.
"The secret is in the sauce,'' he said. ''The garlic sauce is what people like.
"We are consistent. We measure our ingredients to ensure consistency. In business, you can't cook by just tasting food, you have to measure your ingredients."
Long said the menu at the Crab Shack will be expanding this year.
"So many people who used to come here when it was a soul food restaurant ask me when am I going to start selling oxtail dinners and items like that," Long said. "We are going to bring some lunch specials on board. We might not have them everyday, but we might try something on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, or something like that."
He said he plans to start selling dinners with collard greens, green beans, rice and other vegetables. He said he won over the people who were coming to get soul food when he convinced them to try his seafood menu.
"The customers were willing to try what we had," Long said. "When they tried it, they liked it. They would come and ask for oxtails, but they tried what we had anyway. Business has been a whole lot better than I thought it would be. I want to give the people what they want, and I always want to improve."
He said the menu includes crabs, shrimp, chicken, fish, pork chops, french fries, cole slaw, corn, sausages, onion rings and more.
Long said the Crab Shack has been open since September, and he said the most difficult part of getting the business off the ground was finding the right employees.
"When I first opened up, I had to get the right people in place," Long said. "I had never been in the restaurant business before. I had to get a handle on the business. It was chaotic at first. Everything is getting more organized now, and things are looking a little better."
Long said a cousin of his from Tallahassee, who is in the restaurant business, visited Gainesville and gave him some tips on how to handle his inventory and how to properly order the products he uses.
"He came down here and gave me some pointers on how to keep an honest man honest," Long said.
Long said he would like to get into catering as well, and he thinks it is a market here for his products.
"People have a lot of events going on, and they want the crabs," Long said. "There are unlimited possibilities for the Crab Shack. I don't think we are successful yet. We are on our way there, but success is determined by longevity. Will I be here next year this time?
"I have to say though, I am satisfied with the way things are going. I had to learn the restaurant business from ground zero, and I had to learn quick. I have dependable employees, and that helps out a lot. When you get people who want you to grow so they can grow with you, that helps out a lot."
LaToya Jackson has been working at the Crab Shack since it opened, and she said it is a pleasure to work with Long.
"I enjoy the customers and my boss," said Jackson, adding that she does anything and everything that needs to be done at the restaurant. "He keeps me smiling, and he keeps me straight. He's a good person. He will give anybody a chance to help themselves and better themselves."
Customers said the taste of the food is what they like the most.
"I come here quite often," said Mike Hollowell, a self-employed motor mechanic. "I like the shrimp and the flavored chicken wings they serve, and the garlic crabs."
"They have very good food here," said a man who calls himself Baba. "It's cooked well, and seasoned even better. The people are courteous and the place is very clean. I come here every time my stomach leads me here."
"I come here a lot," said Princess Brown. "I love to get the half and half, crabs and shrimp. I stay in the neighborhood, and I ride by a lot, and I decided to stop by here one day. The food is really good, and it is seasoned well."
The Crab Shack is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday.

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