Ellis Buckner, his wife Brandy, and good friends Alex and Beverly Addison have turned a near-tragedy into a blessing.
Ellis, 46, was forced to retire from his job as fireman/paramedic for the county after suffering cardiac arrest that left him in a coma for eight days. With this change in circumstances the couples began searching for something they could do together.
Then came a delicious crab lunch in Daytona Beach.
That meal at the main Crab Stop location in Daytona Beach began the discussion that inspired them to open a franchise located on a busy corner on the north end of 14th Avenue in historic downtown Vero Beach.
With Beverly Addison’s kitchen expertise, gained during 12 years of experience in food service and kitchen work, they embarked on a new path as entrepreneurs and owners. Their restaurant is one of seven Crab Stops throughout Florida.
Ready to go
The location was perfect – it was already outfitted as a restaurant, and ready to operate after some sprucing up.
“It is your baby,” says Ellis. “You wake up with it and put it to sleep.”
They supervise the operation, both front and back of the house, from early morning to closing, six days a week. Brandy Buckner still works as a secretary and Alex Addison is a heavy equipment operator, but they also are involved with the restaurant.
The Buckners are lifelong residents of Vero Beach and the Addisons moved here eight years ago from the Jacksonville area. Both couples are devout Christians.
“As a former fireman/paramedic in Indian River County, I loved to serve my community and experienced joy in that endeavor,” said Ellis, whose father Ellis Buckner, Sr., gained fame as a Highwayman artist. “We continue to serve the community with the best Maryland and garlic crabs in town and give each customer the personal experience of eating dinner with family.”
On the menu
The Crab Stop’s fare is all homemade, including lobster bisque ($3.49 cup/$3.99 bowl) and clam chowder ($2.99 cup/$3.59 bowl). Their signature garlic crabs (medium, large or jumbo) range in price from $21 to $29 for a half dozen to $30- to $49 for a dozen.
They also offer these blue crabs Maryland-style, traditionally steamed live, seasoned with the restaurant’s own spice mixture – not Old Bay – and served with melted butter.
The garlic crabs are cleaned, coated with a spicy secret seasoning mix and slathered with an addictive garlic butter.
The most popular menu item is the Snow Special: three clusters of snow crabs, 12 jumbo shrimp, one pound of steamed red potatoes and two corn coblets. It’s a generous portion for two or three diners for $37.
Not up for crab?
There are fried fish sandwiches, including a local Florida whiting ($6-$6.75). To make them a complete meal, there are additional sides such as corn fritters, garlic rice, corn coblets, hush puppies, sausage, red potatoes, coleslaw, garlic eggs and conch fritters ($.99 to $5.95).
Meat options include an eight-ounce burger with fries ($7.95), 12-ounce Hurt me Burger with fries ($9.95), and wings with a variety of sauces (10 for $8.99, 20 for $15.99 and 50 for $30.99).
Other favorites are the fried shrimp dinner ($11.95), with 10 jumbo shrimp, potatoes or fries, slaw and soda, and the Snow Snack Pack ($14), with one highly seasoned snow crab cluster covered with garlic butter, three jumbo shrimp, sausage, one egg, half-pound of potatoes and beverage.
Save room for the house-made desserts: triple chocolate cake, lemon pound cake, cheesecake, red velvet cake and pound cake ($2.75-$3.99).
Ellis often travels to the restaurant’s main purveyor, in Daytona, to pick up fresh live crabs, which usually come from the Gulf of Mexico. They are perishable, so the restaurant cooks them up as quickly as possible.
Live crabs are sold by the dozen for carry out, subject to availability and at market price.
The menu is served lunch and dinner. There are daily lunch specials from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for $7.99. They include a crab cake patty sandwich, or five wings and three shrimp, fried or steamed, or 10 wings. All are served with French fries and beverage.
They plan to offer beer and wine soon. The petite restaurant is bright and cheery and the tables fill up quickly, especially on weekend evenings, so carry-out is an option.
The owners envision The Crab Stop as a community gathering place and encourage their clientele to write their favorable comments on the “I ate here wall” or follow them on Facebook.
“We’ve been open for three months but have reached a spot in the top ten seafood restaurants in Vero Beach,” said Beverly Addison. “If you haven’t already, stop by and see for yourself. You won’t be disappointed. Get your taste buds ready for the best Maryland and garlic crabs in town.”