All about crab

Leola’s Crab Shack draw crowd to new location for ribbon-cutting, grand opening

The new location of Leola’s Crab Shack puts it directly across the street from FAMU campus.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine
Owner Eric McKinnon has improved the menu at the new location of Leola’s Crab Shack on South Adams Street.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine
Several elected officials joined Katrina Tuggerson, president of the Capital City Chamber of Commerce, and Leola’s Crab Shack owner Eric McKinnon during Monday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

The same will to succeed that Eric McKinnon had when he opened Leola’s Crab Shack more than a decade ago was obvious Monday afternoon. 

There was one evident difference, though. Admittedly it felt a little surreal that a crowd that included government officials was on hand for Leola’s Crab Shack relocation at 1911 South Adams Street.

“It really feels unreal,” McKinnon said a few minutes before a grand opening ceremony. “All of the hard work that went in over the years. All the goals, the dreams of wanting to have a nicer sit-down environment. It is overwhelming. Just a joy.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony officiated by the Capital City Chamber of Commerce was the highlight of the midday event. It marked the first time that Leola’s Crab Shack operated anywhere else other than its previous location on Orange Avenue adjacent to Nims Middle School.

McKinnon, who has been in the food service business for more than 30 years, said he had to move after the location owner FAMU notified him that it had plans for other use of the building.

During the last nine months of enduring the coronavirus, McKinnon managed to keep the restaurant operating. That put him on a short list of Black businesses that are making good during the pandemic.

Katrina Tuggerson, president of the Capital City Chamber of Commerce, was one of the first people McKinnon reached out to after he received the notice to move. The deal to make the new location possible happened quickly, Tuggerson said.

“During this time of COVID and have a Black business that relocated and went up another level is what we’ve been stringing together with the city and the country, the city and all of us coming together to make sure that all of these businesses stay alive and thrive,” Tuggerson said. “This is a significant ribbon cutting.”

So is McKinnon’s start in the business in 2007. He opened up the restaurant, taking primarily to-go orders a year after selling his first crate of crabs from under a tent.

He was inspired to open up a crab shack after seeing one thrive in Tampa, where he was working for Piccadilly. He began to think it was time to come back to come home to Tallahassee and try making a business doing something he was familiar with.

“When I was staying here in Tallahassee, we used to go to each of the houses and have crab boil,” he said. “So, I was like, ‘Tallahassee would like to have something like this.

“It was just based on the desire and the love that people have for sea food all around.”

The new location will allow Leola’s Crab Shack to offer more, McKinnon said. The additions to the menu include grill salmon, grill red snapper and more sides like macaroni and cheese and broccoli. He plans to add a lighter fare later.

Customers who chose not to dine in or use the outdoors seating could order carry out. Those who don’t personally pick up orders could use the Bite Squad food deliver service.

Bite Squad had been affiliated with the restaurant for the past three years, said Jarod Bates, a marketing manager. Deliveries have remained consistent during the pandemic, he said.

“They are folks who throughout this pandemic have stayed strong,” he said. “They trusted that their customers are smart enough to continue ordering from them and bringing some of the best food to Tallahassee, especially the Southside area.”

 The move by McKinnon is a sign of hope that other business will follow suit and set up shop on the Southside, said Larry Robinson, president at FAMU.

“It is always a key point of mine; the role that economic development plays in the lives of citizens particularly on the Southside of town,” Robinson said. “But there is the cultural kind of element as well. It’s not just any type of business, but the type of food that’s being provided. Clearly Leola’s in one of those that provides the type of cuisine that we all love.”

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