Cameron’s Seafood thrives by shipping Maryland's bounty nationwide
When Gilbert Arenas, former player for the NBA’s Washington Wizards, moved from Maryland to the West Coast of the United States, he missed crab and other seafood from the Chesapeake Bay. He had become a regular at Rockville, Maryland-based Cameron’s Seafood’s stores, which offer takeout dishes such as crab cakes and lobster rolls.
Now, Arenas is one of Cameron’s best online customers, ordering around USD 2,000 (EUR 1,726) a month worth of Maryland crab meat and other dishes.
“He started with the crab when he played for the Wizards, after he went on a diet and got very bored of chicken and vegetables,” Cameron Manesh, co-founder of Cameron’s, told SeafoodSource.
Arenas is just one example of a displaced Marylander who is helping push Cameron’s internet sales to a projected USD 2.1 million (EUR 1.8 million) by the end of this year – the retailer’s first full year of online sales.
“Our online business is doing better than everything else is doing. We are doing between 50 and 100 orders a day, shipped to all 50 states,” Manesh said. “A lot of people who are buying used to live in Maryland and buy it for gifts, parties, and events.”
The seafood wholesaler and operator of 14 stores has eight full-time employees handling internet orders, and has maintained five-star ratings since it began selling crab and other products online.
Manesh and the “younger generation” that are part of the management team of the 33-year-old family business hatched the plan for an online store in 2016, and began a pilot rollout in the summer of 2017.
Similar to Cameron’s physical retail locations, the online store features bushels of crabs, lobsters, a variety of fresh fish and shellfish, and numerous prepared items such as Maryland crab cakes and crab-stuffed jumbo shrimp.
"What we are really selling is an experience. I want our customers to experience that special feeling from my childhood memories of sharing Maryland seafood with family and friends,” Manesh said.
Another reason Manesh believes internet orders are faring so well is that Cameron’s offers the lowest price on Maryland crabs. The retailer is able to offer those prices by hiring its own crabbers – 16 “teams” of fishermen – and operating its own crab-picking and food preparation facility.
“We pick the meat and hand-make all of our crab cakes and other dishes,” Manesh said.
In addition, customers seek the flavor of Chesapeake Bay crab, which is unlike any other crab, according to Manesh.
“The water gets colder than other areas, so the crab form a layer of fat and get a buttery flavor and taste sweeter,” Manesh said.
Athletes and consumers transitioning to more high-protein diets are also helping fuel online and in-store sales, according to Manesh.
Cameron’s internet business is on pace to produce sales as high as the entire company’s current sales of USD 20 million (EUR 17 million) annually within three years.
However, Cameron’s internet sales are not cannibalizing sales at its stores, which move 75,000 bushels of crab annually. Business is up over last year, particularly at the company’s Capital Heights’ location, which is directly across from FedEx Field, where the NFL’s Washington Redskins play.
“There is a huge surge in business on game day. We typically have a 50 percent increase in sales during the weekend of a game, compared to a regular weekend,” Manesh said. Redskins fans typically buy a bushel of crabs or fish sandwiches to take into the game, he said.
While most Cameron’s stores produce around USD 2.5 million (EUR 2.2 million) a year in sales, the Capital Heights location boasts sales of around USD 3.5 million (EUR 3 million) annually.
Plus, signs at the Capital Heights store, along with Cameron’s other stores, remind customers they can ship crab and other seafood to their family and friends nationwide by ordering directly online.