Crisfield, Maryland Food Lion – An Emotional Connection that Feeds an Island
Smith Island lies in the Chesapeake Bay and is part of Maryland’s southernmost Somerset County. First populated in the 17th century by settlers from Wales and the English West Country, Smith Island has served as home to generations of “watermen,” the intrepid harvesters of the Bay’s famed blue crabs and oysters. To this day, there are strong traces of English West Country dialects heard in the islander’s conversations.
To say that Smith Island, a mere 80 miles as the crow flies from our nation’s capital, is isolated is an understatement. With a population of 276 residents scattered in three settlements – Ewell, Tylerton and Rhodes Point, the island is accessible only by the occasional helicopter and several passenger ferries. Daily, year-round ferry service connects the island to Crisfield, MD – a 45-minute trip across Tangier Sound. Other ferries serve the island from the west shore of the bay, but only operate during the summer season.
Lacking a grocer on the island, residents have always been dependent on food shipments from the mainland. On the day Food Lion opened its Crisfield Store #2688 in 2009, the mayor and several town officials visited Richard Barnes, the new store’s manager, to see if he’d be willing to fill remote food orders for island residents. Come to find out that the prior local grocer, which shuttered its doors the day before, had provided customer-ordered food shipments via the ferry. Somewhat taken aback at this revelation, Richard contacted Corporate and quickly made the necessary arrangements to continue this longstanding service for the islanders.
Six days a week, Monday through Saturday, Smith Island customers send their order forms and payments to the mainland with ferry Captain Terry Baird. The morning ferry arrives at 8:15 from the island and Captain Terry swings by Store #2688 to drop off the orders and accompanying cash, check or debit cards. Store associates are always on the lookout for the good Captain and immediately go to work shopping the orders. Each order is rung up by a cashier and boxed for transport.
Later in the morning, Captain Terry returns to load his truck for the short drive to the ferry. The return trip to the island departs Crisfield at 12:30 p.m. and in addition to passengers, is often loaded to the gunnels with island provisions.
“You would think with the amount of detail involved and all the orders we fill, there would be lots of problems, but we’ve been doing this so long and know our customers’ preferences so well, it all goes pretty smoothly,” said Assistant Store Manager Nicole Carlucci.
Store Manager Cameron Dukes added, “The store has about 40 regular Smith Island customers, though that number jumps in the summer due to seasonal residents. All the regulars are MVP members. While we’ve never met many of our Smith Island customers face to face, we have a strong emotional connection with them. Through our long association, they definitely feel like family!”