UPDATE: Crabby’s Corner was denied a variance by the Board of Zoning Appeals Tuesday evening. The board advised the owners to work with Town Council on adjusting the definition of a restaurant in the zoning ordinance or to appeal in circuit court.
BLUFFTON, Sc. (WSAV) – When you walk up to the Crabby’s Corner take-out window, you can order a Palmetto Pop or pre-packaged ice cream with the sprinkles on the side because where the shop sits—they’re not allowed to sell any prepared food.
“Our whole vision with Crabby’s Corner was about kids,” said Chris Johnston, co-owner of Crabby’s Corner.
When they found out they weren’t allowed to scoop ice cream or shave ice, Crabby’s Corner started an online petition, getting nearly 600 signatures within weeks.
“When we were looking into this property… it was zoned for a restaurant,” said Johnston.
The idea was for a knick-knack shop and cold treats.
“We came to Bluffton back into 2015, my wife grew up in Hilton head had a vision for retail and wanting to open up their own shop with her twin sister and so we finally got to make it happen,” Johnston said.
They started by opening up the store and within a few months, opened a take-out ice cream window just in time for summer.
“We worked hard, my daughter painted the mural we did the signs we wanted a perfect place for the kids to come and families to enjoy old town Bluffton like we enjoy old town Bluffton,” he said.
Less than two months after buying the property, the town changed the zoning so Crabby’s Corner could no longer prepare and sell food where they sit on Lawton Street.
“The zoning district which it is in, allows retail businesses,” said Heather Colin, the growth manager with the Town of Bluffton, “The only businesses allowed to be a restaurant in this particular district are the ones located on the main road… Calhoun Street,” she said, “This particular property only has frontage on Lawton street and is considered to be a side street, which is not one of the streets designated for a restaurant.”
Johnston has asked the town for a variance, but in the meantime, they’re scooping their ice cream in a commercial kitchen.
“We are taking Jack Frost ice cream, take it to a commercial kitchen, scoop it in the container, put a top on it, take our container of toppings, put them in a little bag fold that up, tape it, bring it back and we can sell it as package ice cream,” Johnston said.
Which is a big a hit for the kids after a day at the park, but not so good for business.
“I don’t know if we’re making any money… what we wanna do is take care of the local families, take care of the local kids, provide a service that’s not being served anywhere else,” he said.
The Bluffton Board of Zoning Appeals will vote on a variance request to allow the shop to scoop ice cream and make shaved ice at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening at Town Hall here in Bluffton.