The Classy Crab® opened in August of 2016. Owned and operated by Joe Shoff a lifelong resident of Lancaster County, The Classy Crab prides itself on superior customer service, fair prices, honesty, and having the freshest blue crabs in the area.
Recognizing the growth and revitalization of Lancaster into a vibrant and culturally diversified place to do business, Joe and his wife Jeannie saw a need for a different kind of blue crab vendor. A vendor who is committed to obtaining the best product available, regardless of where it comes from.
“We are extremely happy at the response from the immediate neighborhood and community,” said Jeannie. “We have been welcomed with open arms and that’s a great surprise.”
For Joe, opening a crab shop in Lancaster was a practical decision: ” I love Lancaster County,” said Joe. “This is where I live. I grew up down by the river in Washington Boro.” For Shoff it also made sense from an entrepreneurial point of view. Having worked in the crab industry for six years, and the shipping industry at UPS for eight years before that, ” I was confident that with the right business model we had a lot of potential here.”
Joe and Jeannie are happy to take advantage of Lancaster’s geographic location in a number of ways. Situated close to the eastern shore, many people have developed a taste for the blue crab after vacationing at many of the beaches within driving distance. Additionally, Lancaster is the perfect location for shipping, with easy access to big cities like Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, etc. With Joe’s knowledge of both industries, it just made sense to open a crab shop.
The Shoff’s first challenge came in breaking into the industry itself. As with any enterprise, new competition is not necessarily welcomed. Living so close to the Mason-Dixon Line their obvious first choice for buying blue crabs was Maryland. However, the Maryland crab trade is a tight-knit business and they had a rough time breaking into it. So they changed their plan…
Joe and Jeannie were forced to take a look at other options. Many people do not know that blue crabs are plentiful all along the East and Gulf coasts ranging from New Jersey to Louisiana. Many consumers are unaware that a lot of the crabs bought in Maryland are actually caught in these other states and delivered to Maryland where they are many times misrepresented as Maryland crabs.
Frustrated with their progress, they turned to Bobby Lee a friend and mentor who is a long time fixture in the Philadelphia crab industry, for advice. “I’ll never forget it” said Joe. “He said: ‘Either do something huge or go away.’ That sure stuck in my head for the next few days and after thinking about it a new plan started to rattle around in my head. What if we buy a truck and drive to Louisiana ourselves?”
Joe went big, bought his own truck and immediately began making the 2,400 mile round trip to the crabbing waters of Louisiana twice a week. The Classy Crab travels all over “The Bayou State” in order to find the best product available, whether it be from the shores of Lake Pontchartrain or the bayous of southern Louisiana. “The decision to start hauling our own crabs was a tough one and came with a lot of risk,” said Joe. “And new expenses. The price of fuel and simple routine maintenance is astronomical.”
“I really want to get the word out that Louisiana blue crabs are the best in the country,” said Joe. “I understand the nostalgia surrounding Maryland blue crabs and we do sell them in the end of summer into the fall, but the reality is we’re bringing a more consistent product into this area. I’ll put my crabs and processes up against anyone else’s. They’re bigger, freshly steamed, and it only takes one try for people to see what I’m talking about.”
So far The Classy Crab is doing just that- getting the word out- and people are noticing. Stop by the shop on Columbia Ave in Lancaster, PA or check out The Classy Crab on Facebook or our website for daily specials, announcements and special events.