This is an addendum to an article I worked on with Brice Stump. Little did we know at the time how close we were to the demise of the originator of Nanticoke Seafood., H. B. Kennerly, Jr.? I attended his funeral in Nanticoke on Monday, February 22, 2010. TheEastern Shore has lost a superb entrepreneur and a giant in the seafood industry. He was also a very quiet philanthropist, donating much to his beloved Westside community and the Nanticoke Methodist Church.
Nanticoke Seafood was started in 1967 as a subsidiary of H. B. Kennerly & Son. Mr. Kennerly, Sr. had died in 1956, but his son carried on the family name in the business. The father and son had an oyster business where an empty factory is now. The main oyster house was brought up from Roaring Point in 1942. When Kennerly, Jr. sold the old tuna plant across the harbor to Coldwater Seafood, he agreed to freeze breaded oysters for Coldwater and that jump started Nanticoke Seafood. Nanticoke Seafood was formed as a subsidiary for business purposes. The freezing of breaded oysters led to the formation of a new product – fried clams. These were never sold under a specific company-owned retail brand name, but many were sold to distributors under the brand names “Ocean Chef”, “Maryland House” and “Seakove”. Along with “house sales”, many pounds were sold to popular restaurant chains such as Red Lobster, Long John Silver’s, Friendly’s, Shoney’s and Country Harvest Buffets. They never had a salesman, Mr. Kennerly making all the necessary contacts at the annual seafood conventions.
Mr. Kennerly sold the plant lock, stock and barrel to Consolidated Foods in 1978. This included the business, the land, the buildings, the inventory and the vehicles. They operated Nanticoke Seafood under their Booth Fisheries sub-division. This continued for seven years until they sold it the same way to SeaPak Corporation, a subsidiary of Rich Products of Buffalo, New York.
This arrangement continued for thirteen years. It was during SeaPak’s ownership that Nanticoke Seafood became the largest producer in the world of fried clam strips, a distinction the employees were extremely proud of. It was known throughout the industry that Nanticoke Seafood clam strips were top quality and many tried to duplicate them, but never could.
Over time there have been only five companies producing fried clam strips – Nanticoke Seafood, American Original, Old Salt, Seawatch and Eastern Shore Seafood.Nanticoke maintained its market share until its demise in 2005, when it was moved to Cape May, N. J. by Cape May Foods who had bought it from SeaPak in 1998. American Original and Old Salt no longer exist. Cape May bought Nanticoke Seafood. Seawatch bought Eastern Shore. So the only fried clam producer on the Eastern Shore is Seawatch in Milford, Del.
Nanticoke Seafood had the distinction of being in business for forty years and never had a losing year in a very competitive market.