Hot crabs sold here

Owner of the Crab House II, Darrell Demps, poses in front of his take-out restaurant.

BRAD MCCLENNY/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 2:38 p.m.

A special garlic crab recipe developed by one brother that has been brought to east Gainesville by his younger brother is delighting the taste buds of many local residents.

Jacksonville resident Darrell Demps, the owner of the Crab House II at 1818 NE Waldo Road, said his older brother, Osteen Demps, developed the garlic crab sauce recipe he uses on his seafood and barbecue in the 1970s, and he said east Gainesville residents of all ethnic backgrounds and walks of life are eating his food at an overwhelming rate.

"My brother has worked in the seafood industry all of his life since he was 13 years old, and he developed this recipe," Demps said. "In fact, he was the first person in Jacksonville to sell live garlic crabs."

Demps said he began to use his brother's recipe when the Jacksonville mortgage company he worked for laid him off because of downsizing. He said he started the Crab House after other business ventures he invested in did not prosper. He said he decided to open the Crab House because it is a business he knows inside out. He also said a good friend of his from Gainesville urged him to venture into the Gainesville market.

"I used to have a mobile unit by T.B. McPherson some years ago that did well before I ran into some problems with the city's zoning codes," Demps said. "I had to close down there, but I opened back up at the gas station on the corner of Waldo Road and (NE) 23rd Avenue."

Demps said he knew the Crab House would be successful after seeing people in Jacksonville standing in line with umbrellas during thunder storms to buy his brother's tasty crabs.

Seeing people stand in line at his new Waldo Road location is what led first-time customers to stop by recently and patronize his business.

"People are always standing in line when I pass by here," said Shirley Fagin, who was patronizing the Crab House recently for the first time. "Whenever I see a business with people always in line to get something, I know they must have a good product."

Jamal Brown echoed the sentiments of Fagin.

"My lady wanted some crabs today, and we had heard that they have fresh food and good and prompt service here," said Brown, adding that it was also his first time patronizing the Crab House. "I have rode by here many times, and I always see a lot of people in line, and I have heard nothing but good things about this place. Plus, I like supporting black businesses in the black community."

Demps said garlic crabs are his signature product, but he said the Crab House also sells quality fresh shrimp, oysters, fish, hushpuppies and more.

"I have mastered a garlic barbecue chicken and ribs technique that is becoming very popular with our customers," Demps said. "We have a woo-tang sauce that tastes good on anything, from salads to meats. It is a family recipe that will last for generations."

Demps said he is very appreciative of how his business has been received by the east Gainesville community and he is determined to deliver the best product and service imaginable.

"I started this business in 2002 on Edgewood and Avenue B in Jacksonville," Demps said. "I was able to grow the business there by delivering a quality product and good service."

Demps said although the garlic crab business is very competitive, he said the recipe the Crab House uses will ensure its success for years to come. He also said the Crab House is not a family business, instead, he said it is a business run by a family.

"This is a business first and foremost, and I run it that way," Demps said. "Even my children know that when they work here, it is just like working anywhere else. They know they can't come to work when they get ready and they know they can't do what they want to do. We are here to serve our customers in a professional way."

He said he has been able to be successful in business by persevering and working hard, and he said the way he seasons his food makes a big difference as well.

"A lot of people think cooking crabs is easy, but this isn't easy work at all, though everybody might think so," he said.

Demps said the recent cold spell has put a damper on the availability of live crabs, but he said that is going to change soon.

"When the crabs start coming out of the mud, I will have crabs when nobody else has crabs," he said.

Demps said he sells an average of 800 pounds of crabs and 40-60 pounds of shrimp weekly.

"I know I can sell fifteen hundred to two thousand pounds of crabs a week if I can get them in stock," Demps said.

Demps said the Crab House has a recipe that may be imitated, but will never be duplicated and he hopes to serve many more customers in east Gainesville and beyond.

"I definitely want to grow my business around the state, but I love Gainesville and I hope to be here for a long time."

Hours of operation are from 3-11 p.m. Wednesday and 1-11 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. The phone number is 352-557-5244.

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