Local eatery quietly goes to new owners

Seafood fixture has been in family since 1944

October 22, 2006|By Todd Holden | Todd Holden,Special to The Sun

A seafood tradition in Havre de Grace has changed hands.

Irene Walsh has sold Price's Seafood, a family business that opened in 1944.

"I decided to sell, just like my grandparents did, and it is a bittersweet feeling. The past 20 years have been great, and I'll miss it," she said, "But my parents' health was the deciding factor. They've helped me; now it's time to help them."

The new owners have asked Walsh to stay on as long as she can. "Joe and Louise D'Amico are from Avondale, Pa., and want to carry on the same tradition we started in 1944," she said.

In her dining room in Webster, just north of Havre de Grace, Walsh looked at dozens of photographs of her family working at the little seafood restaurant by the river.

"I'm surrounded by memories, a table and heart full of them, and I have no regrets, none at all. The tradition of Price's will continue, and that's what really matters most to me," she said.

Price's Seafood at 654 Water St. is only a short stroll from the chop along the Susquehanna River.

The restaurant began when founders Norman and Irene Price sold sandwiches and fried chicken that they made in their backyard at Pearl and Otsego streets.

Folks liked the food, and soon Norman Price began building a restaurant on his father's property on Water Street. The Prices sold the property to their granddaughter, Irene Walsh, in 1985.

"The restaurant had been closed for 10 years, after they called it quits in 1976, and it became a woodworking shop for making field decoys and storage," Walsh said. "Rather than see it go out of the family, I just decided to buy it from my grandparents. I didn't even tell my husband I was doing it," Walsh said.

"Families that knew our family never forgot us and have always supported our tradition of serving local crabs," she said. Walsh's parents, Ruth and Richard Kasmarick, helped her get started, along with her uncle, Alvin Price, a son of the founders.

"We only sell Maryland crabs, buying from the same families that my grandparents bought from in the '40s. Strictly Maryland crabs," Walsh said with pride. "We ship crabs to Texas and New York City. Mike Schmidt of the Phillies used to come down for crabs; so did Mario Andretti and other big names. Just last weekend, Matt Stover, placekicker for the Baltimore Ravens, came in with his daughter.

"I didn't know who he was and told him he'd have to wait about 20 minutes for a table. He went outside and sat on the steps and waited. We treat everyone the same, and they keep coming back," Walsh said.

"It's the seasoning. You can't get that taste anywhere else. It's just right, not too spicy and overdone," said Glenn McIntosh, a 45-year-old store manager from Aberdeen.

In another room, Cookie Dinsmore, Debbie Lunney, Linda Elliott and Edi Simmons were enjoying a night out with a table full of crabs and Coronas. Walsh knows them all and comes over to chat, amid orders flying in and out of the steam room.

"The crabs here are meaty, heavy, full and spiced just right," said Harold Blume, who was picking up an order. Through the side door, a steady stream of customers rolled in within minutes of the 5 p.m. opening.

Price's has kept up a tradition as a community dining spot, and that seems to be continuing as new owners take over. As a storm blew up the bay one recent evening, a waitress asked a young couple if they wanted the plasma TV tuned to the local weather. They ordered a dozen steamed crabs for $35 and said, "Sure, it's really blowing out there." The dining room had been open for less than 45 minutes, and there was one table left.

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