“We’re trying to build a culture that’s beyond anything that we’ve seen out here. None of us is money-driven, we’re spirit-led,” says Chaz Crenshaw, president of Skrimp Shack, also known as “The Skrimp King.”
Skrimp Shack is one of the Virginia Peninsula’s most beloved fast seafood restaurants. With locations across the Eastern United States, the company credits its current success to its “humble beginnings,” according to Crenshaw.
Between 2011 and 2012, Mitch and Stacy Hardman began selling fresh seafood from their truck and trailer in different locations throughout coastal Virginia. Eventually, they secured a stand-alone building in the Newport News/Yorktown area, where they sold fresh and cooked seafood with homemade seasonings and formulas. “They built a small shed and started cooking in the back,” Crenshaw says. “It’s a beautiful story, how this couple had the will to win.”
The Hardmans began to franchise the store, and after the number of locations climbed to 20 stores, they decided to sell the business. Crenshaw’s diverse background prepared him to take over.
“My background isn’t food, but I’ve got a belly to prove that I know food,” he says. For 18 years, he was a general contractor with Summit Construction and Environmental Services and also headed a mental health agency. Over the years, Crenshaw began to work closely with Glenn Heard of Heard Concrete, who knew Kevin Harrison, owner-operator of two thriving Chick-fil-A’s in Newport News. Harrison considered purchasing the Skrimp Shack from the Hardmans, so he brought it to Heard. Finally, a deal was made in November 2019 to buy the building.
“The people I’ve met, the partners I’m working with closely — we respect each other’s opinion,” Crenshaw says of his colleagues. “We’re not in competition with Chick-fil-A. We all have a spirit of excellence.” His main goals for the company include empowering employees and rebuilding and rebranding greatness, making Skrimp Shack the most successful that it can possibly be.
Around the end of 2020, things moved quickly with Skrimp Shack’s transition into new ownership. “Since then, we’ve been trying to grow the brand,” Crenshaw says. The new team met with current franchisees “to let them know there would be a ‘changing of the guard.’ We wanted to come up with ideas of how we could enhance what was already great.”
The Skrimp Shack franchises in North Carolina sponsor charities and community groups, often feeding unhoused populations, making good on their promise to prioritize family and community.
“We feel blessed that North Carolina embraced [our company] and helped us become one of the top-producing Skrimp Shacks,” Crenshaw says. Eight months after owning the two Charlotte locations, “Glenn and the team came to me and asked if I wanted to partner with the franchise. I was floored at the opportunity, and I accepted.”
With 32 Skrimp Shack locations in the U.S., spread across Virginia, North Carolina, Florida and Georgia, the first two international Skrimp Shack restaurants are expected to open this fall in Cairo, Egypt. Crenshaw says the company used to be known as “America’s Favorite Fast Casual Seafood” brand, but now, Skrimp Shack’s regional reputation is quickly turning into an international one.
“Before this franchise was purchased, there was a franchisee from [Egypt who] had family there,” Crenshaw says. “His brother is an entrepreneur and loved the [Skrimp Shack] product and thought that it would work great in Egypt. Once we were under new ownership, the idea came back around and we decided to do it.” Ultimately, he hopes for Skrimp Shack to grow to 300 locations worldwide.
When asked his favorite menu item, Crenshaw laughs, “There’s nothing on our menu that I don’t love,” but named “Skrimp Shack po’boy” or a “Fat Fish Samwich” with flounder as top picks.
During the tumultuous year of 2020, Skrimp Shack adopted the hashtag #TogetherIsTheWay, its new motto and vision as a result of rising racial and religious tensions.
“We don’t care who you are, [or] where you’re from,” Crenshaw says. “We want to have a place for people to come together. Together is the way. It’s the only way we can start healing, and food brings people together.”
Crenshaw is married and has three grown children, all of whom are now business owners, and three grandchildren. He has been an avid boater and motorcycle rider since 1983. He has biked across the lower 48 states, Alaska and much of Canada. Crenshaw is also dedicated to community outreach, often working with ex-offenders and unhoused individuals.
TO THE POINT:
Address: 744 City Center Blvd., Ste. 400, Newport News 23606
Contacts: Chaz Crenshaw, president; Stephen Haggerty, head of marketing
for corporate office
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