It was only three months ago when sisters Jennifer Hayes and Yvonne Thompson opened their first restaurant together, The Crab Pot, but already they've been talking about opening another establishment in the Atlanta area.
Located in Mama Mia's old spot in the Village, the seafood and Creole restaurant has seen success with menu items such as gumbo, chicken pasta and its signature dish, the garlic crab, all cooked fresh to order by Thompson and Hayes. One customer even commented that their shrimp pasta is better than Mama Mia's.
Thompson, with Hayes making a small appearance before going back to the kitchen, was able to sit down with Patch this week to talk about the seafood business, Stone Mountain Village and how customers claim they make the best garlic crab in Atlanta.
Patch: What made you decide to open a restaurant in the Village?
Jennifer Hayes: It's always been a goal in life to own our own business, and we had talked about it some time ago. I was looking for a place to do on weekends, just Thursday through Sunday, and I was passing by this street and noticed the 'For Lease' sign. I called her up and said, 'Hey, I found this little place.'
Yvonne Thompson: Well, it was Jennifer's idea, and she's been [living] here for 16 years. We've always wanted a restaurant with our mom's recipe of garlic crab. And then back home in San Francisco, people thought that our crab recipe was better than this big, huge crab place called Crustacean, and they always said we should go into business.
Patch: Did you come all the way from San Francisco?
Thompson: California Bay area, yeah.
Patch: Wow, that's a big move. What made you change careers, or did you work in seafood before?
Thompson: Well, my mom owned her own fish market, too, in Menlo Park, [Calif.,] and then she closed that business down. Since it's basically always been a dream for Jennifer and me, that's what made us say, 'Let's try it.'
Patch: How has the restaurant side been treating you so far?
Thompson: It's been great. Actually, a lot of people say we're like a five-star restaurant and we have the best garlic crab in Atlanta, and that says a lot. We also have smoked butter crab. The garlic, the gumbo and the smoked butter crab are our top three sellers.
Patch: Are a lot of your entrees based on your mom's recipes?
Thompson: Well, the garlic crab is, and then all the other recipes are pretty much my homecooking recipes, Jennifer's too. Our homecooking recipes that we put together are here.
Patch: What's probably your favorite recipe?
Thompson: The garlic crab. And the smoked butter crab.
Patch: You've probably been used to working with your sister since your mom owned the seafood market, but how do you feel working with her now?
Thompson: It's fun. Ya know, because we're close. We're on the same mission. We try to be very strong on customer service. If somebody has a problem, we don't have a problem with making it right. We're pretty much on the same page when it comes to that.
Patch: Are there other family members involved in the business?
Thompson: Our kids help, and I have a daughter coming from California, she and her fiance. We still have to do our grand opening. We haven't done it yet, but we're trying to figure out a way to do it.
Patch: Do you have any ideas that you're leaning toward for the opening?
Thompson: I think we said that we're going to shoot for August, and then we may pass out some "Crab Pot bucks" to get certain discounts off your meal. We're still putting it together, but definitely, I'll let you know when.
Patch: How are you getting along with the other Village vendors?
Thompson: We try to be supportive. Like, [with] the Stone Mountain Bakery, we get our cakes from them. We support each other. Same with the [Wells Cargo] Cafe. People come in here to eat, and if we don't have what they want, we refer them to Hilda at the cafe. But we're due to get our beer and wine license hopefully by the end of July, that's what we're working on.
Patch: Yeah, that can be hard.
Thompson: Yeah. ... We do charge a corking fee. They can bring their own wine and stuff, but if they want to sit down and say, 'Hey, you don't serve your own beer and wine?' We say, 'No, but Hilda next door does.' So we're all in the same business, and there's enough out here for everyone. The restaurants need each other's support.
Patch: Do you do anything special with the evening nights in the Village, such as the Art Walks or Movies on Main?
Thompson: We'll make up a special. Like on Tuesday nights, we have all-you-can-eat garlic crab night. And hot and spicy crab, so we'll run those two, and with that you get a gumbo to start off, a baked potato salad and dessert, for $35.99. All you can eat. And that's been real successful. Some Saturday nights for Movies on Main, people sit along the side to wait to get in, and sometimes the wait is long. But each meal is freshly prepared. We don't have things that are frozen or premade. We do it as ordered. That's what makes us different. Plus our garlic crab.
Patch: You guys really went out with the seafood theme in the restaurant, except for the Italian murals on the walls. Are the murals from Mama Mia's?
Thompson: Actually, it was from the owner before Mama Mia's. He went to Italy and had those pictures from when he was in Italy, so when Mama Mia's bought it, the murals were already here. So it has a long history.
Patch: That's really cool. So you guys don't have any plans on painting over it?
Thompson: No, because a lot of people like it. They say it feels nice and warm.
Patch: What do you see in the future for The Crab Pot?
Thompson: To open up more in different parts of Atlanta. Our next mission is to open up just a garlic crab and a gumbo to-go. We don't know what location, but that is what we want. I think it would be easier if you sell buckets of crab to go, because a lot of people ask us if we have it. Because we sell the snow crab, [people often say,] 'We want just a bucket of crab to take home to eat."
The Crab Pot is located at 961 Main Street in Stone Mountain. For more information on menu items, call 770-498-5900.