Crab Shack Looks for Claw Lovers to Help Fund Grand Opening

By Rachel Holliday Smith on May 14, 2014 5:53pm 

CROWN HEIGHTS — They’re this close to taking a stab at crab.

For years, good friends Fifi Bell-Clanton, 39, and Gwen Niles, 44, have dreamed about opening a crab shack. Now the pair are looking for a little help to make their dream a reality.

“I used to say back in the day ... somebody needs to open up a crab shack. This is ridiculous. How come New York doesn’t have one?’” said Bell-Clanton, a professional stylist who grew up eating crab in Philadelphia before moving to NYC.

The pair, who both live in Fort Greene, are hoping to bring their love of all things clawed to Crown Heights with “The Crabby Shack,” a restaurant they hope to open at 613 Franklin Ave. in June with the help of $25,000 in funds from crab lovers on Kickstarter.

“We have crab tacos, crab rolls, crab cake sliders with or without the bun, crab dumplings, crab mac and cheese,” said Bell-Clanton, in addition to winter items like “crab bisque, grilled cheese and crab, crab pot pies” and, of course, Dungeness crab, Alaskan snow crab and blue crab “seasoned and steamed to perfection” by the half or whole dozen in the summer.

Prices will range from a $2 or $3 for sides like corn on the cob to $32 to $35 for a pound of crab in the shell, with everything else falling in between, like a crab roll for $12 or $13.

The space they secured for the shack needed a lot of repairs, they said, eating up savings they intended to use for operating costs.

“It was a hot mess,” Niles said of the 1914 building that used to house a church. She said it needed a new floor, HVAC system and restructuring work, among other things, “that took a big chunk of our money that we just weren’t anticipating.”

The pair hope to reach their fundraising goal by June 11, with pledges that start at $25. The pair promise to name a menu item after whoever pledges the most money.

As the campaign rolls along, work in the soon-to-be restaurant hasn’t stopped. On Tuesday, Bell-Clanton and Niles met their contractor and prepped for a meeting with a crab distributor at the venue.

There’s also their liquor license to sort out — they plan to serve beer, wine, sangria and “prosecco spritzers” — which Community Board 8 will consider on June 2, according to the district manager.

After years of dreaming about the restaurant and a year of work to make it a reality, the women are determined to serve up fresh crab in neighborhood.

“It was very important to both Gwen and I, who live here in Brooklyn, to plant roots here and watch them grow,” said Bell-Clanton in their Kickstarter pitch.

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