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People brave the cold at Abingdon Joe's Crab Shack opening

A line wrapped around the newly opened Joe's Crab Shack in Abingdon Monday morning, as people braved the cold to earn a free bucket of snow crabs a month for a year.

The grand opening for Joe's Crab Shack in Abingdon was scheduled for 11 a.m., but the first person in line arrived at noon on Sunday to hold his spot to be one the first 100 people when the new restaurant opened.

Eric Lashley, of Middle River, came with his family of five, including a daughter who works at Wegmans in the same shopping center. As the first person, Lashley also cut the ribbon during the grand opening ceremony, surrounded by Joe's Crab Shack representatives and Baltimore Ravens cheerleaders.

He first ate at Joe's Crab Shack in Virginia Beach, Lashley said, and when he heard about the Abingdon opening, he had to be there.

The night was "freezing cold," Lashley said, but worth it for the coupons. Claude Thompson, of Bel Air, was second in line after the Lashley family and had been waiting outside of the restaurant since 11 p.m. Sunday night.

"The night was cold but it went fast," he said, adding that he watched movies on his iPad to pass the time.

Thompson has been working for UPS in the area for 18 years, he said, and remembers when the shopping center where the restaurant is was just vacant land. He doesn't mind the recent growth in Abingdon, though.

"Wegmans and this is about the best thing to happen to Abingdon," Thompson said.

Vivian Presbury, who came with her daughter, Chantel Lee, has also been in the area for a while, having lived in Abingdon for 21 years. Although she also remembers when "there was nothing but woods," she said she was happy Abingdon "has truly grown up."

"I love the changes," she said, adding that they also bring the value of her home up. She's close enough to walk to Joe's Crab Shack too, which is an added bonus.

As a "great lover of seafood," standing in line was worth it for Presbury. Lee came down from Pennsylvania, she said, to support her mother, who waited in line since 11 p.m.

She also frequents the Joe's Crab Shack in Wilmington, Del., "all the time," Lee said.

For those who joined the line a little bit later, Joe's Crab Shack provided the entertainment with a small jazz band, beanbag toss and employees dancing the cupid's shuffle in the parking lot.

The restaurant also brought out coffee around 8:30 a.m., according to Thompson.

For Christina Newman's 5-year-old grandson, DeVon Jarusek, a Gameboy was enough to keep him occupied as he "braved the cold" in line since 5 a.m.

It was ironic, too, that they came, Newman said, as she and DeVon were related to the owners of Jarusek Crab Shack, a former crab restaurant in the area. Newman, who said she has gone to Chick-fil-A openings, said the Joe's Crab Shack opening was "very well organized" and it was nice that they brought the beanbag toss.

Also in line were Kenny Hall, of Baltimore, and Evelyn Stokes, of Abingdon, who had been at the restaurant since 5 a.m. Stokes has been to the Joe's Crab Shacks in Delaware and Atlanta, but Monday was Hall's first time.

Stokes came because she "loves crabs." Hall, who attends Faith Baptist Church, said he also came to "evangelize" by praying, singing and dancing in line.

Some of his prayers were directed at the crabs too, Hall joked, saying he was "praying for the poor crabs about to be devoured."

Kathy Jones and Dan Fisher, of Bel Air, said the opening was fun and the coupons worth the "freezing" weather. They had been in line since 5 a.m. and although they frequent the restaurants in Bel Air, Fisher said this would be their first time eating at a Joe's Crab Shack.

"We've been waiting for this to open," Jones said.

The new restaurant is at 3414 Merchant Blvd. off Route 924 in the Boulevard at Box Hill Shopping Center.

In addition to Monday's free crab giveaway, from Jan. 12-26, Joe's Crab Shack will award guests bounce-back coupons – valid upon their next visit to the Shack – for donations made during January to No Kid Hungry in the following amounts: $1, free key lime pie; $5, free crab nachos; and s$10, free Classic Steampot. For more information on No Kid Hungry - Share Our Strength's campaign to end childhood hunger in America, visit http://www.nokidhungry.com.

"Joe's Crab Shack is excited to open the Abingdon location with delicious seafood, signature drinks and a relaxed beach atmosphere that brings the shore closer to home," Craig Hawkins, general manager of the Abingdon restaurant, said in a news release prior to Monday's opening. "With our unique menu and festive environment, Joe's Crab Shack is a great place for friends and families to share memorable dining experiences."

Joe's Crab Shack, part of Ignite Restaurant Group, also operates locations in Greenbelt and Gaithersburg. According to the company, the 284-seat Abingdon Joe's Crab Shack will employ 236 people.

The Joe's Crab Shack menu showcases a variety of seafood dishes, including the company's featured Steampots, seafood entrees and crab dishes featuring snow, Dungeness, king and blue crab.

A menu favorite, according to the company, the Steampots are perfect for sharing with friends and family. For a full list of menu items, visit: http://www.joescrabshack.com/menus/.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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