Gullah Gullah Fish Market is located downtown Manning
by Laura Stone | July 13, 2018 4:57 pm
A year and a half ago, Craig Levy and his family opened Gullah Gullah Fish Market, bringing the taste of the Gullah people to downtown Manning.
Levy’s mother, Barbara, grew up in Clarendon County, leaving for New York City in 1965 after she graduated high school. Levy was raised in New York City, although his family returned to Clarendon County to visit family often.
Levy’s parents purchased the building unit on West Boyce Street in 1998. Although they rented the spot to other businesses, Levy knew he wanted to own his own business.
After earning an associate degree in business from Sage Junior College in Albany, Levy moved to Manning with his family. He rented a spot around the corner from the unit they owned, and he opened a small clothing store. At the same time, he went to Morris College, earning a bachelor’s degree in business in 2008.
“I originally wanted to open a barber shop,” said Levy. However, he and his brother had spent weekends along the coast from Charleston to Savannah, sampling food styles and becoming foodies. Levy kept his eye on the spot the family owned, and when the renter moved out, Levy sold his clothing business and opened his restaurant.
As they scoured the coast for seafood styles and recipes, Levy and his brother, Kevin, began to learn of the Gullah history along the coast. They discovered the Gullah people also moved into Clarendon County, and the Levy family included Gullah ancestry.
According to Joseph A. Opala’s article “The Gullah: Rice, Slavery, and the Sierra-Leone-American Connection,” the Gullah people live along the coast and on the coastal islands in South Carolina and Georgia. The Gullah still live in farming and fishing communities.
“Because of their geographical isolation and strong community life, the Gullah have been able to preserve more of their African cultural heritage than any other group of Black Americans,” said Opala’s article. “They speak a creole language similar to Sierra Leone Krio, use African names, tell African folktales, make African-style handicrafts such as baskets and carved walking sticks, and enjoy a rich cuisine based primarily on rice.”
While they feel strong ties to the Gullah people as a whole, Levy and his family are striving to revive the Gullah cooking styles in Clarendon County, and a lot of their recipes date back to the 1800s. Levy cooks the fish, shrimp and chicken wings, Kevin cooks crab, Barbara cooks the side dishes including the rice dishes which sell out each weekend, and Levy’s aunt, Betty Benbow, runs the front counter.
“I couldn’t do anything in the restaurant without her,” said Levy of his aunt. While Levy owns the business, his brother, mother and aunt are partners. Kevin also has an associate degree in business management from Nassau Community College in Garden City, New York, and a bachelor’s degree in business management from St. John’s University in Queens, New York.
The restaurant is only open three days per week, and Levy enjoys it that way. He feels it allows people to have something to look forward to on the weekends, and it allows Levy and his brother time to shop for and prepare the more difficult dishes. All of the fish served in the restaurant is locally caught.
“What we serve in the restaurant was swimming early that same week,” said Levy. He and his brother make runs to Georgetown and Myrtle Beach to purchase seafood each week.
The restaurant does have menu items, such as chicken and waffles, chicken wings and Gullah ox tails for those who want something other than seafood. Most of the seafood items come fried or steamed, giving a healthy option to guests. Gullah Gullah also caters, offering delivery for a fee if the order is very large.
Although already in business for a year, Gullah Gullah hasn’t yet had a grand opening. However, Levy is planning the big event, and he hopes to host it before the end of the summer. He is also already looking for a good place to add a second larger location, with an eye toward eventually franchising the business.
Even without a grand opening, Gullah Gullah has already captured the hearts of the Manning people. During it’s first year in business, Main Street Manning awarded Gullah Gullah with an award for Most Hospitable Business.
Outside the restaurant, Levy assists their father with his farm and 40 cows, which his father sells to a market in Orangeburg. He also spends time scouring grocery store magazine racks for interesting food magazines.
Kevin is a personal trainer who works for the Department of Parks and Recreation, holding exercise classes behind Weldon Auditorium, and he is also contracted at McLeod Health.
With any leftover time, the two continue to eat up and down the South Carolina and Georgia coasts, hoping to expand their repertoire of traditional Gullah recipes.
To learn more about Gullah Gullah Fish Market, visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GullahGullahFish/. Their hours of operation are Thursday 1-10 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday 12-10 p.m.