Fifi Bell Clanton and Gwendolyn Niles both had lucrative day jobs working for celebrities. Niles worked as an executive with Sean “Diddy” Combs, the late hip-hop artist Notorious B.I.G., and Grammy-winning singers Faith Evans and Janelle Monae for 20 years in artists and repertoire at Bad Boy Entertainment.
Clinton, on the other hand, was a fashion stylist for celebrities such as Alicia Keys, singer Jackie Evancho, The Cheetah Girls, and Wyclef Jean. But years ago, the two friends decided to quit their long-time careers in fashion and music to venture into their dream of becoming entrepreneurs. The vision, which came to them seven years ago, was to open a restaurant business in Brooklyn, New York.
The duo founded The Crabby Shack, a fast-casual Brooklyn restaurant specializing in seafood. Since establishing the restaurant in 2014, the Black founders have opened a second location. And according to Fortune Magazine, the restaurant had more than $1 million in revenue by 2019.
“Since we opened in 2014, we have made some additions to the menu and removed some items that weren’t working for us. The best addition has been our Lobster Roll, which is a half crab, half lobster sandwich. We have also expanded into the Barclays Center, which is very exciting for us,” Niles told Finurah last month.
Beyond posting a positive profit, the restaurant has also taken its tasty crustacean creations countrywide. For Niles, the move is to offer the American people in every part of the country an opportunity to have a bite at their tasty offerings.
“We have started shipping nationally in 2021 through the site Goldbelly. We are very excited about expanding the brand that way. We want someone in Boise, Idaho, to be able to experience our delicious food,” Niles said.
In addition to the expansion, The Crabby Shack is also getting a facelift and some new features. For instance, Clanton and Niles want to have “grab-and-go“ service available as well as have their seasonings and sauces in the retail sector.
“We are also giving the restaurant a facelift and adding some new features. We will have grab-and-go items available in our new freezer and refrigerated section. Last but not least, we will be looking to sell our seasonings and sauces in the retail sector.”
For now, the restaurant offers mouthwatering seafood offerings like Dungeness crab, Alaskan snow crab legs, crab mac & cheese, crab cake sliders, lobster roll, lobster roll (half crab/half lobster) and its best-seller Crab Roll, according to Finurah.
Like many Black businesses, Clanton and Niles were hit by the pandemic following the imposition of lockdown which restricted people’s access to their restaurant. This affected the company’s sales but they made a strategic decision to hire more delivery people.
“We struggled with the decision to stay open during the pandemic. We were scared about getting ill ourselves and keeping our staff and customers safe. We decided to remain open and install some safety measures. We also had to modify our business model,” explained Niles.
“Dining in was no longer an option in 2020, so we hired more delivery people, increased the number of front of house staff, and bottled our drinks. We were at the mercy of third-party delivery services, but thankfully the demand was there. For a while, we were the only crab spot open.”
The two moms are looking forward to more exciting years after recovering from the pandemic.
“The most exciting part of running the Crabby Shack is that the dreams are endless. We are constantly thinking of ways to better our business and expand. That’s the gift of being an entrepreneur. We can ride this until the wheels come off!” Niles shared.