BY JANE BLOODWORTH ROWE
LANDSTOWN — When it comes to seafood, Eric Gamble puts the emphasis on local.
Gamble, owner of Beach N’ Seafood Co. at the Virginia Beach Farmers Market, stocks local favorites, including Eastern Shore oysters, Little Neck clams and, of course, locally caught fish and crabs.
Customers even have their choices of a variety of sauces and rubs made in Virginia Beach by Ashman Manufacturing & Distributing Co.
Those with more diverse tastes can also choose from wild salmon from Alaska, crawfish from Louisiana or jumbo gulf shrimp.
Gamble opened Beach N’ Seafood in March in the spot formerly occupied by Chuck Macin of Uncle Chuck’s Seafood. Macin, a longtime fixture at the market, died in January 2016.
For Gamble, a native of New Florence, Pa., it was a long road from the mountain streams where he fished as a child to his current job as a purveyor of seafood.
“I grew up fishing and hunting ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper,” Gamble said. “But the streams that I fished in weren’t any wider than this room.”
Gamble moved to Hampton Roads in 2000, where he worked as a respiratory therapist, first at Riverside Hospital in Newport News, then at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. He pursued his interest in fishing although he admitted that the transition from mountain streams to coastal waters was a learning experience.
“I didn’t have the right equipment,” Gamble said.
He also had to become accustomed to saltwater fish, which he describes as generally less “gamey” or “strong” than the freshwater varieties.
Over time, Gamble developed a taste for coastal varieties, and he began selling seafood out of the garage of his Carrollton home. In June 2016, he began selling at the market on weekends, and now that he’s semi-retired from his career as a respiratory therapist, his shop is open Tuesday through Sunday.
He still works at Norfolk General Hospital on Mondays, but he plans to open seven days a week when he fully retires from the hospital late this year.
Crabs, Gamble said, are probably his biggest seller, and right now there’s a big demand for the soft shell crabs, which are in season in early summer.
He also sells locally made she-crab soup, and, if you strike up a conversation with him, he’ll give you advice about how to prepare the seafood that he sells.
Gamble said fish are excellent when they are cut into chunks, dipped in hot sauce, then rolled in a batter and grilled.
To prepare scallops, put them in a searing pan with about a half stick of butter and brown lightly, about three-and-one-half minutes on each side.
If you choose, you can add a rub to them, Gamble said, but the key is not to overcook them.
So what’s the best thing about running a seafood shop?
“Being your own boss,” Gamble said. “I’d rather work eight days a week for myself, but you do have to have a good product or you’ll be out of business.”
Call (757) 268-4886 for more information about Beach N’ Seafood. The market is located at 3640 Dam Neck Road, where Dam Neck and Princess Anne roads meet.
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