North Bay residents are a mixture of those who have lived in the area for their lifetime and others who choose to relocate. J.P. and Samantha McCrary with their children are part of those who chose our coastal area. Beginning in a little town in southwest Arkansas they migrated to Dallas then Midland. Samantha was very involved with the politics of real estate and community activities in Midland as she built a successful real estate career. Life does not always continue a straight path, however, and following a battle with cancer, the McCrary family headed to the South Texas coast.
“When we moved here in 2013, we had some money to invest and we wanted to do something different,” said Samantha. “I had cancer in 2011, melanoma, … and we decided we wanted to slow down, move to the beach, chase a passion, chase a dream, that kind of thing.”
After first locating in Port Aransas to chase the dream, they finally chose Rockport for a new hometown. Samantha said first she did “the family thing”…and made cupcakes…and sold houses. Then the McCrary’s invested their savings to open a restaurant, the Mermaid’s Kitchen. A building was leased in January, opened the following May then closed three months later.
With their whole savings gone, Samantha thought she would go back to real estate full time but people who loved her food changed that plan. “Our customers started calling me,” she said. “We really want your food.” “Are you going to reopen?” “I’m having this party, will you come over and cook?”
“I hadn’t thought about that idea,” Samantha recalled. “That sounded like fun. That’s how the personal chef started.”
J.P. was also looking for a new job and connected with the owner of Chef’s Source which places chefs on ranches in South Texas. Following a hunting season preparing meals for hunters on these large ranches, Samantha began catering for some of the customers from Mermaid’s closed restaurant out of a little building across from the Rockport Harbor and the “old HEB”. Samantha said Mermaid’s Kitchen catering took off, grew and was doing very, very well until Hurricane Harvey completely wiped it out.
The McCrary family left Rockport when Harvey was predicted to be a category 3 and possibly a category 4 tropical event. They sealed up Mermaid’s Kitchen, boarded up the windows in their home, loaded up the family and the “critters” then headed to East Texas.
They found out from friends on Saturday afternoon, August 26, 2017, the Mermaid’s Kitchen shop was gone – there was nothing left. They heard how bad the damage was, how many people had lost their homes, and learned the water and natural gas were off.
Late on Sunday afternoon a friend called and told them their house was still standing even though many trees were down and predicted it would take a day to get from the highway to the house.
“The first thing we thought was people are going to need food and water…trash bags and cleaning stuff,” said Samantha. She was not involved in any civic organizations except as a member of the Rockport Fulton Chamber of Commerce. The hurricane and events of the next few weeks brought a complete change in community involvement for the McCrary family.
To follow the events leading to the accidental beginning of the Rockport Relief Camp, the outpouring of support from so many people and the hard lessons learned, click on the website “Follow by email” button or “Like and Follow” My Coastal World’s Facebook page. Readers will find it heartwarming as well as heart-wrenching.