As I envision the residential and commercial development of Easton Point, a plan that I support as an inevitable adjunct to Easton, I regret the closing of Gay’s Seaford at 896 Port Street due to the sale of this valuable waterfront property after 107 years of ownership by the same family.
Operated by Rennie Gay since 1998, the seafood business, quaintly shabby but comfortable, is iconic. With its sale of “local” crabs, as well as other delicacies, Gay’s represents the type of “crab shacks” that once populated the Shore. Once upon a time, Poore’s Seafood in St. Michael’s offered the same down-home service, sprinkled with decidedly obvious Eastern Shore dialects among those who served customers.
Rennie Gay epitomizes a Talbot County native, friendly and proud. He runs a bustling retail and wholesale business from his location on the Tred Avon River. His trucks were often seen on Route 50 on the way to the Western Shore. He lives across the parking lot in a comfortable rancher, his grandchildren’s toys scattered on the property.
Gay was quoted in The Star Democrat saying that increasing age prompted him to sell the property to Paul Prager. I understand his desire to step away from a longtime family business. He also led hunting parties. His gracious daughter Heather also worked in the business.
Even after we moved to Annapolis, we would be sure to buy our steamed crabs at Gay’s during our visits during late spring, summer and early fall. The quality was good. The prices were far lower than in the Annapolis area. A prospective on the crab supply was always available.
Though Prager neither needs nor wants my advice, I would suggest that a seafood emporium would be appropriate. Consistent with Prager’s first-class restaurants and stores, a retail and wholesale seafood business would add a notable touch of local ambience to the redevelopment of Easton Point.
It could carry the name Gay’s. A nice local touch.
Some years ago, when my wife and I were visiting a friend in Maine, we waited in line for 45 minutes in the rain for a memorable lobster roll at the renown Red’s Eats in Wiscasset. It was not fancy. Its reputation, however, drew visitors who wanted to consume an iconic and delicious lobster roll—and did not mind lingering in line.
While the current Gay’s offered no sandwiches, no restaurant venue, just steamed crabs, soft crabs, clams and oyster, its reincarnation could become not only a conveyor of carryout seafood but an informal restaurant similar to the popular Candler’s Riverside Inn in Annapolis.
Easton Point could become a destination for condominiums as well as food endemic to the Mid Shore. I would hate to give up buying “local” crabs at Gay’s Seafood. A new reality could force me to change my ways, reluctantly so.
I twice have placed quotation marks around the word “local.” Why? Whether you called Gay’s in early May or late October to place an order, the voice at other end would always assure my wife or me that the hard-shell crabs were local. We always laughed, knowing that most crabs sold in Maryland in late spring come from Louisiana and possibly the Carolina waters.
Maybe global warming has made Shore rivers more hospitable earlier in the season. I doubt it.
I guess the crabs were local somewhere. It just seemed to us that the Miles River and Wye River crabs, available in the season, were the tastiest. We just had to be patient.
A newer version of Easton Point would hark back to history, bearing the mark of a Talbot County family dedicated to the natural delicacies of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.