Abby Morris never planned on getting into the seafood business. She grew up on a tobacco farm in Ontario, then later moved out west, got married and was thinking of going back to school when her life dramatically changed.
In 2011, her father-in-law Ray had just purchased Crabby Bob’s, a crab and shellfish business in Campbell River. Bob was an old friend of Ray’s who sold live crabs off the back of his boat. It slowly grew into a crab shack on the dock that was a favourite spot for the locals.
Ray had long dreamed of running a family seafood business and had big plans for the future of Crabby Bob’s, but just over a year after taking over, he became ill.
“When he got sick, he asked me if I could look after the shop for him because he was not well. And two weeks to the day, he actually passed away.”
She recalls thinking, “What do I do with this? Like, I didn’t plan on this. I was just looking after it for him and I ended up taking over the business. And then I became Crabby Abby,” she said laughing.
“For the first couple of years, I fumbled my way through it working with our local fishermen, the Department of Fisheries, the health inspector, the Ministry of Agriculture, because they all play a role in providing proper licensing.”
Today, her hard work has undoubtedly paid off. This summer will be her tenth year at Crabby Bob’s and business couldn’t be better. Abby has expanded the storefront to include food service, where they steam seafood platters full of fresh shucked oysters, dungeness crab, and B.C spot prawns on site, served with mouth-watering garlic butter and fresh corn.
Abby knows all her suppliers personally, and nearly everything comes from local fishermen, building off the direct relationships that Bob and Ray had established to bring in wild salmon, halibut, ling cod, and scallops to name a few. She works with other local businesses to share facilities to flash freeze their catches.
Keeping it local and sustainable is part of Abby’s mission. “If somebody comes in and they point to something and ask me where it comes from, I usually know off the top of my head, but if I don’t, I’ll just go look at my paperwork and I’ll be like, it came from this area. It was fished this day.”
“Because if we don’t look after what we’re doing now, what are my grandchildren going to eat? Will they have the opportunity to eat what comes out of our backyard?”
Now Crabby Bob’s is a true family business just as her father-in-law Ray had imagined.
“His vision was to build a new business and have his family work with him. But he ran out of time,” she said.
“It’s my ten years kind of looking after the shop this year, and now I have my family, my kids, my niece, my brother, everybody there this summer. It felt like it came full circle for what my father-in-law had hoped for.”
Reflecting on her time at Crabby Bob’s, Abby said, “when I go to work, it’s not work. I know that my father-in-law is with me and I’m fulfilling a dream that he had.”