Tony Conrad started out working in an office on weekdays and crabbing on the weekend to make extra money.
Now, he operates four outlets for crabs, including Conrad's seafood market on Joppa Road in Parkville and the new restaurant Conrad's in Perry Hall.
He's still out on the bay, although it's now six days a week. And, when you eat his crabs in the evening, especially in season, there's a good chance he caught them that morning.
Conrad said he's not the only Baltimore-area crabhouse owner who also catches crabs, but "we can count on two hands the people who do this."
By "we" he means he and his wife Andrea. He catches crabs and manages the seafood, she does the books and marketing.
Tony Conrad's partner in marriage and business is the former Andrea Antonakos. They met when both were working at Michael's Cafe in Timonium. He proposed when she graduated from Loyola College Maryland, where she majored in psychology.
In addition to the restaurant and market, the couple sells crabs from a truck in Jacksonville and operate the crab concession at Cal Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen.
It's been an unusual journey for a Parkville boy who graduated from Calvert Hall College High School in 1993. He went on to Baltimore County Community College in Essex and Towson University, where he majored in criminal justice and played slot back and strong safety for the Tigers football team.
He said his family links to the seafood business go back to the Civil War era in southern Maryland.
"My ancestors would catch crabs and rockfish and feed the railroad workers," he said.
He started out crabbing with his father, John Conrad, and then learned the commercial crabbing business from the late Bill Gunther Sr. of Harford County. He kept on catching jimmies.
"I liked doing this. It was a weekend thing to do," he said.
He spent time working for an information technology company and a food distributor and picked up useful business skills. Finally, he felt he had a skill set worthy to start a seafood enterprise.
He told his wife he wanted to quit his weekday job and go into the seafood business full time.
"She said, 'Are you crazy?' "
Across the table, Andrea Conrad just smiled.
Joppa Seafood on Joppa Road was looking for a buyer and Conrad took it over with two partners, Michael Dellis and Frank Petillo. He later bought them out.
"It was a challenge the first couple of years," he said. "In the crab world, everyone wants crabs from the first pitch of baseball season to when the kids go back to school. Then, it drops off."
He and his wife had long considered a restaurant and had studied various locations. He was also introduced to a chef, Joe Lancelotta, and the two hit it off.
"As soon as I met Joe, I said, 'He's a beast.' He's just like me," Conrad said.