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Behind the Counter: Waterman's Pride

Waterman Anthony Vicari is living out his dream, selling the crabs he catches at his Fullerton storefront.

Rarely does the name of a business fit the character of the place so well as Waterman's Pride suits the seafood shop in Belair Beltway Plaza shopping center.

For the last seven years the store's owner, Anthony Vicari, has provided his customers with fresh, locally-caught Maryland crabs during crab season.

Vicari will spend most days during the crabbing season—April 1 until Thanksgiving—pulling in bushels of Maryland's favorite seafood from the Chesapeake.

Crabs are something that Vicari takes very seriously—he's been catching them since he was 13 years old and learned from his father who was also a waterman, crabbing off Miller Island.

Aside from a stint working in management "in corrugated cardboard," he's been on the Bay his whole life.

"When I left that job, I went back into crabbing full time," Vicari said. It wasn't a tough decision to make, he explained.

"If you went on a boat with me for one day, you’d see why [I did it]," Vicari said. "When the sun's coming up over the island there and you see it through the boat window—I had a big, nice office before—but you can’t get a better office."

That's not to say that it's all fun and games.

"A lot of people when they hear crabbing, they think recreational—pulling up a few pots," Vicari said. "I’m very serious about it. We have a winder on the boat [that pulls the pots up]. I call it the money wheel; if it ain't spinnin' the money's not coming in."

At a minimum Vicari, who lives in Edgemere, tries to pull in 500 crab traps every day—some days the number can be as high as 700; what does that mean in terms of crabs?

During the fall, the height of the crab season, Vicari said he can pull in 50 or 60 bushels of crabs each day but over the course of the entire season, the average is closer to 25 to 28 bushels.

If the spectacular weather this week has you interested in eating some crabs, Vicari has some advice.

"If you’re gonna buy a crab, buy them from a crab house where the owner is a crabber," Vicari said. "He will be real picky with his product, and make sure that his customers are getting the right thing."

Vicari explained how to determine if a crab is full. On his 43-foot Chesapeake workboat, his crew looks for two things to figure out how much meat will be inside a given crab.

First, Vicari turns a crab on its back and points to two dark marks on the underside.

"Those are called water marks, and if they're on the crab that means it's full — a lot of people don't know that," Vicari said.

Then he holds a crab by the pointed tips of its shell—on the boat they call that part the "lights" of the crab—and squeezes; he invites me to do the same, and there's no give to the shell.

"On a crab that's light you'll be able to move that part around really easily," Vicari said.

That's the kind of attention to detail you'll only get from a waterman, Vicari explains.

He added that to decide on the right seasoning for his store's crabs they sampled 20 different blends and the feedback was overwhelming; the blend they use is proprietary, and kind of a secret.

"If you want to get it, they blend it espcially for us," Vicari said. "You have to get it here.

Another thing they take seriously at Waterman's Pride? Family.

"This is a family run business—while I'm out catching them, Chrissy's here running the store," Vicari said.

Chrissy is Christina Barcikowski, Vicari's daughter and she's the one who manages the store most of the time—making sure that orders go out on time when the place gets busy.

And it does get busy—on Thursday night scarcely a moment went by that there wasn't a person at the counter placing an order. 

"It's incredible, we can't keep crabs in," Vicari said.

Vicari's goal is to one day own his own building where he can offer his wares, but for now his location in the shopping center is working for him.

"You can see, it's busy—this shopping center is really nice, especially since they did the renovation; there’s a good business flow through this market here."

Carole Bentz March 23, 2012 at 12:17 PM
The crabs are the best at Waterman's, Thanks for working so hard Anthony, we neighbors love the crabs
Joan March 24, 2012 at 12:19 AM
I love their crabs, but can anyone tell me why I can't print the first page, have wasted lots of ink on all the ads and pictures w/o any of the comments on the first page at all. Just the picture of owner and daughter. Help!
TonyD March 24, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Joan, right click on the picture and select "save as". and save it to your desk top. Then open it from your desk top and print.

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