Full steam ahead for Millville's new seafood shop

Few things say “summertime at the beach” quite like a fresh bushel of steamed crabs smothered in Old Bay and piping hot corn on the cob, which is precisely what Joe Parsons had in mind when he decided to open Steamers, Millville’s soon-to-be summer hotspot.

Coastal Point • Ruslana Lambert: Joe Parsons poses in front of his new business venture, Steamers. The seafood shop will open up Memorial Day weekend and serve freshly steamed seafood.Coastal Point • Ruslana Lambert
Joe Parsons poses in front of his new business venture, Steamers. The seafood shop will open up Memorial Day weekend and serve freshly steamed seafood.

Situated beside the Fat Tuna restaurant, the red barn building has undergone some drastic changes from the antique shop that had peddled coins and firearms for over a decade. Starting this summer, Parsons will be rekindling childhood memories that his family, and others, have shared for generations. The carryout seafood joint, set to open Memorial Day weekend, boasts a lineup of local favorites, with plenty of potential for additions.

“We’re going to have crabs by the dozen or bushel, depending on availability,” he said, “clams, mussels, shrimp, crab legs, and corn — basically, everything you’d get steamed in the summertime, we’ll have it.”

They plan on carrying sides, such as potato salad and coleslaw, as well as ready-to-cook crabcakes and shrimp salad.

“I figured this would be a great opportunity to open something like this,” Parsons said. “There are not a whole lot of places you can go to in the area to get fresh, steamed seafood.”

Once Steamer’s establishes itself, Parsons added, he’s considering special orders and other seafood, such as oysters and lobsters, too. The seafood will be steamed to order, guaranteeing the freshest food.

“They’ll call ahead, and we’ll have it all steamed up for them when they come in,” said Parsons. “I want to keep things really simple. I’d rather cook 12 things really well than worry about a lot of menu items and only do a mediocre job.”

Although operating in the food industry may seem like a far cry from the real estate desk he’s worked behind for the better half of a decade, Parsons said he is confident that his history with restaurants will provide him with the knowhow he’ll need to run Steamers. He steamed crabs in Ocean City in the summertime for seven years.

“I worked at Best Crabs,” he said, “at 143rd Street on the bayside. I learned a lot from the owner there, too. It’s always been a lot of fun. I’ve always enjoyed doing it.”

And Parsons knows a thing or two about providing customers with good seafood.

“I’ll be here through the week,” he said, “counting down the crabs and making sure customers are getting a good product. Sometimes, a large shell isn’t all that much. You need a crab with weight to it, too.”

Parsons isn’t running on his past knowledge alone, however.

“It’s been a learning process,” he admitted. “I’ve talked to a lot of people in the food-service business. Someone will say, ‘Hey, have you thought of this?’ and they’ll give me a little more advice for the store. I’ve been putting it all together so that this can be a really successful business.”

He’s wasted no time establishing business with fisheries and seafood vendors.

“I’ll be getting crabs from all over,” Parsons said. “I have some guys lined up in Maryland, Virginia, and some in North Carolina. I’m going to be bringing in river crabs, too. They have a really sweet mustard to them, and I think a lot of people are going to like them.”

Parson’s vendors are all lined up, with promises of plenty of seafood to come.

Although a good number of people have dedicated their time to help get the carryout restaurant prepared, Parsons said he plans on running Steamers with a small core group.

“It’s mostly going to be me,” he noted. “My buddy, John Walker, will be giving me a hand, and we’ll have maybe five or six people total, steaming off the food, taking orders, that sort of thing.”

Walker, whose family owns and runs the Ocean View Deli, has been instrumental, Parsons said, fixing up the restaurant in preparation for the grand opening.

“I really couldn’t have done something like that without the support of my family and friends,” Parsons stated.

Longtime friend Dave Long, with 3-D Tile in Ocean View, is putting the last touchups on the floor. Parsons has also received a lot of support from his fiancée, Blair Elizabeth, who has been running her own jewelry and gift boutique in Rehoboth Beach for just over a year.

“It’s a different ballgame, what she does and what we’re trying to do here,” said Parsons, “but she’s been behind the project. She has given some pointers, but it’s really great to have her support with everything.”

Finishing touches were put on the porch this past week, and the interior work is nearing its final stages. Transforming the former shop into a carry-out food establishment was by no means a simple feat. Pipes, freezers, sinks and more had to be accommodated.

“It’s all coming together pretty well,” Parson said.

This past week’s storm did everything but move the final construction along for Steamer’s.

“I’ve had to push off some of the approvals for everything to next week,” Parsons said. “The electrician has to come in and check off on a few things, and they’ve been busy fixing downed power lines. The storm definitely didn’t help, but it still shouldn’t push our opening date back any more.

“It’s all still going to work itself out. I’m trying to stay in touch with the fire marshal and all the officials, really well,” he said. “I want to make sure they’re happy and that we’re good to go by summertime. Next year, I’d like to be running from April to October, as long as the seafood is available.”

Seafood lovers can stop by on Memorial Day weekend at Steamer’s in Millville.

“It’s going to be a nice little seasonal place,” said Parsons. “I think I can bring something to the area that will be a family tradition for years from now.”