I always look forward to talking to Pamela Barefoot. The founder and owner of Blue Crab Bay Company generates good energy and good ideas. She’s so positive that you forget that there’s a depression going on and that the sky is falling. At a time when businesses are barely eking out survival, her Accomack, VA based snack food company is introducing new treats and may be on the snack platters at the Royal Wedding.
OK, maybe that’s a little wishful thinking, but she’s been contacted by Harrods in London to send them samples of her wares. If they pass the taste test, the famed department store will stock some of Blue Crab Bay’s unique Chesapeake-oriented goodies. Gourmands in London’s West End could enjoy Virginia peanuts spiced with the blends Pamela first developed in her kitchen back in 1984.
I love the names: Skipjacks – peanuts covered with a spicy honey coating, Crab House Crunch – sweet & spicy peanut squares, Crab House – peanuts dusted with crab seasoning, Dune Buggies – sea salted almonds, and her newest offering, Sandbaggers. These sea salt & cracked pepper coated peanuts were a big hit at the Fancy Food Festival in San Francisco a couple of months ago. Considering that the Festival is the venue where *everybody* shows off their newest big thing, even getting the thousands of buyers and food critics and professional foodies who nosh their way through the displays to stop is a challenge. Getting them to return and bring their friends is like going viral on Facebook and Twitter. (They are on both platforms, by the way.)
It was a long trek from her kitchen to San Francisco and London. Her vision was more than having a ‘nice little earner’ as the British would say. She wanted to give to her adopted Eastern Shore of Virginia home. She wanted to create local jobs, to make people aware of the resources and beauty of the region, to use that to improve her community. There are a fair number of companies and corporations doing that now – Ben and Jerry’s, L.L. Bean, New Balance Shoes – for instance. But back then, it was a radical idea.
The early years were hard. Her first shop and kitchen burned down; the rebuild washed away by Hurricane Gloria. But with true Eastern Shore cussedness, she pressed on. She entered a national write-in contest describing her vision for her business and what it could do for her neighbors and home. She won $7500, national publicity, and validation of her ideals. In 1999, she was the Virginia Small Business Person of the Year; in 2003, the U.S. Small Business Administration named her one of the nation’s Outstanding Women Entrepreneurs. She is very proud of her staff of equally energetic employees and their dedication to their mutual goals. They’ve expanded from peanuts to spice and seasoning blends for steaming shellfish and making crab, clam, and shrimp dips; her Sting Ray Bloody Mary mix has Ocean Clam juice and is the only Bloody Mary mix without High Fructose Corn Syrup; there’s a new line of soaps and toiletries which contain seaweed harvested locally. And she’s always thinking about what might be intriguing, successful, and fun to add to the inventory.
You can find Blue Crab Bay Company on-line at www.bluecrabbay.com. If you are headed on Rt. 13 in Accomack, their retail store is in the airport business park.