It was Tyler Perry who gave Moncks Corner garlic crab virtuoso Brittney Simmons the idea to pitch her seafood services to fellow superstar Jay-Z.
He didn’t make the suggestion directly: Simmons knows plenty of celebrities from her work as a party promoter, but Perry isn’t on her client list. Instead, he used his Instagram feed to chastise an aspiring actress who bought a billboard in hopes of landing an audition.
“Please don’t do this,” Perry wrote in a June 5 post, which has been liked more than 139,000 times. “Save your money!! This is the third time that someone has done this. Please stop!”
Simmons got the message. Rather than spend thousands of dollars on a roadside sign, she paid a graphic designer $50 to create a doctored photograph of a billboard with her picture. “Attention Jay-Z,” it reads. “Britt Bratt’s Garlic Crabs wants to cater to you!!”
According to Simmons, many of her followers believe the billboard is real. Social media posts featuring the illustration have already been liked thousands of times, and Simmons is confident that Jay-Z will see one of them.
“I use my brain,” says Simmons, 30. “That’s more powerful than money.”
A few of Simmons' more cynical followers have pointed out that Jay-Z is rumored to be a vegan (The New York Times earlier this year reported he actually just eats two plant-based meals a day.)
“They’re laughing, throwing shade, but I bet his friends aren’t vegan,” she counters.
Although she’s been a promoter for 13 years, Simmons didn’t start selling fried seafood until 2015 when she partnered with her then-boyfriend’s mother on the endeavor. Marci Taylor-Reid is the creator of Dee Baby Girl all-purpose seasoning, seafood breading, garlic butter and garlic sauce.
Initially, Britt Bratt’s Garlic Crabs would work out of kitchens at lounges and bars, but Simmons recently got her own food trailer.
“I’m determined,” Simmons says. “You got to believe in your crab.”
Her faithful customers certainly do. Simmons schedule is now dominated by private catering, a portion of the business she’s grown on the strength of her seafood presentation strategy. While most garlic crab sellers package their seafood in boxes, she’s known for her “seafood spreads,” which are tabletop arrangements of shrimp, crab legs, sausage, crayfish and corn.
“My advantage is I’m a good host,” Simmons says, adding that touring performers insist on Britt Bratt Garlic Crabs when they come to the Charleston area. She sent along a photo of a spread she created for Charlamagne tha God featuring his initials spelled out in split corn cobs and surrounded by shrimp.
Although Simmons appealed to Jay-Z first, in part because “whether it’s a bad response or a good response, he does so many things for black community,” she has two more billboard mock-ups at the ready. One’s aimed at Oprah Winfrey while the other’s addressed to Barack Obama.
“I’m getting help from all over the world right now,” Simmons says. “Support, support, support; share, share, share.”
For more information on Britt Bratt’s Garlic Crabs, go to brittbrattsgarliccrabs.com.