Chicago has always been an economic powerhouse for food + ag innovation. It’s why Chicago is named the Food Innovation Capital of the World! Chicago is where great ideas can scale quickly and thrive long-term.
Meet Two Fish Crab Shack founder, Yasmin Curtis.
- Tell us how you got started in business?
Well, I have a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and a master’s degree in human service administration, which led me down a couple of different paths early in my career until I decided I wanted to own my own business and be my own boss. I’m originally from the Southside and was living in the Bronzeville area when I started exploring the idea of creating a dine-in restaurant experience. I knew that I didn’t want to have to travel across town to have a great dining experience, and neither did my neighbors. After some market analysis, it was clear that high-quality dining options were underrepresented on the Southside of Chicago and there was opportunity to support the blossoming commercial district along 47th Street. I had a chance to bring something new and different to the community and the concept of Two Fish Crab Shack was born.
- Tell us about Two Fish Crab Shack’s top selling, most popular products?
After we opened 2016, we quickly became a dining destination with a rabid following. People loved our fried seafood offerings, but it was the fun-filled seafood boil in a bag experience featuring fine, fresh seafood paired with our irresistible homemade 3 The Chi Way sauces that kept people waiting in line for a table. I wanted to create something special that families and friends of all kinds could enjoy together, and our casual, hands-on dining experience struck a chord. People loved our sauces so much, that we started to package them in jars for sale at the restaurant as well as online.
- Please share information about your to-go products; e.g., what got 3 The Chi Way started and have any new products slated for the near future?
When the COVID-19 pandemic closed indoor dining across the Chicagoland area in spring 2020, we didn’t have a carryout offering for our customers. That just wasn’t our business model. So, I started to tinker with a version of our food that could be frozen and then cooked at home. I combined our customer-favorite shrimp and crab legs with Two Fish’s 3 The Chi-Way sauce packets in an easy-to-use, 1-pound package people could keep in their freezers and enjoy from the convenience of home.
The first Two Fish To-Go bags became available July 2020 through a neighborhood Mariano’s marketplace event where they sold out time and again. We were just blown away at how interested people were in the frozen packs. The high demand caught the attention of the Mariano’s seafood buyers and they asked if we could make enough for them to sell as a test in local stores. We made the packages, fulfilled the order and the product was sold off the shelves in one weekend. This early success and demand helped catapult our Two Fish To-Go boil in a bag packages to the Mariano’s seafood freezer aisles across Chicagoland starting January 2021.
Since we first launched Two Fish To-Go, we learned what appealed to users most, so we’ve also started offering our frozen 1-pound packages with shrimp and sauce only as well as crab legs and sauce only.
- Tell us, in your words, why is Chicago a great place for Two Fish Crab Shack? Any anecdotes as to how Chicago has been a great city to grow, expand?
I love Chicago. It’s my home and I’m so grateful for how the community has rallied around the business we’ve built with Two Fish Crab Shack and value the role we play in supporting the economic development of the area. When I’m not working at the restaurant or on expanding our wholesale business through Two Fish To-Go, I like mentoring young people interested in entrepreneurship and cultivating new job opportunities for community members. I want to help others get inspired and active in helping Chicago’s small businesses and communities thrive.
- What’s the best advice you’ve been given about starting your own business; or what is your advice for someone interested in starting a business?
Having a sense of hustle and keeping a positive, can-do spirit in everything you do is key. It’s what helped me adjust the business when faced with an unexpected roadblock that created unpredictable conditions. I’ve had some wonderful, successful business owners generously share their advice and their learnings with me as I’ve grown my business. Their stories and their advice have given me a lot of confidence to believe in myself, believe in what I was building. I want to make sure I do them the courtesy of passing along confidence, positivity and advice to others.