Two years after launching a retail line of crab cakes made according to Henry’s legendary recipe, Skipper Shaffer has ceased production.
“Due to lackluster sales and my being too far away to manage quality control, as well as the inflated crab meat prices, I decided to retire,” says Shaffer, grandson of Henry’s co-founder Walter Shaffer.
Shaffer’s son will continue to make deviled crabs for The Wreck of the Richard and Charlene; the Shem Creek restaurant in 1993 started buying the celebrated mix of picked crab meat, stale bread, eggs and spices from the Shaffers.
When Henry’s opened in 1932, Shaffer’s grandmother prepared the beer joint’s deviled crabs. According to Matt and Ted Lee, who chronicled the history of Henry’s in The Lee Bros. Charleston Kitchen, “she packed the crab shells, placed them in the oven on a large cookie sheet, and later transported them in an old black Packard to Market Street.” After Henry’s evolved into a local bastion of elegant dining, the deviled crabs remained on the menu. They were still being served when the family sold the restaurant in 1985.
“The deviled crab recipe would have died off then if not for Skipper’s dad, Henry Shaffer,” The Post and Courier’s Teresa Taylor wrote in a 2013 profile of the incipient retail operation. “When the elder Shaffer retired as an insurance executive, he began making the crab again, at first for friends and neighbors.”
Almost 20 years after becoming The Wreck’s exclusive deviled crab supplier, Henry Shaffer asked Skipper to take over the contract. He agreed, on the stipulation that he could “take it to the next level” and produce cakes for retail sale. The crab cakes were sold at Piggly Wiggly, then picked up by Harris Teeter.
“This has become my passion,” Skipper Shaffer told The Post and Courier. “I’m determined to make it happen.”
The last Henry’s Crab Cakes were formed in February.
“It was a fun ride,” Shaffer says.