When Tony and Abby Sharamitaro helped throw a church fund-raiser last summer, they wanted to offer more than just brats and burgers on the grill. They settled on a Louisiana crawfish boil. The only problem: The Sharamitaros live a day’s drive from fresh Gulf seafood. So the morning of the party, a friend drove to the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport and picked up 75 pounds of live crawfish. It had just arrived by special order in the cargo hold of a Southwest Airlines flight, packed into a nondescript white Styrofoam cooler.
The Shamaritos—who aren’t chefs, just serious seafood enthusiasts— ordered their crawfish online from Louisiana Crawfish Co., which helped create an industry around shipping live Gulf shellfish. Owner David McGraw says it all started in 1985, when a college buddy moved to the East Coast. McGraw owned a crawfish farm at the time, and the friend, missing Louisiana cuisine, asked him to ship a few pounds. Overnight shipping was still pretty rare, so it took McGraw months to figure out how to mail live crawfish.
McGraw says his shipping business blew up when the Internet came along. Then came Katrina. “Louisiana moved out of Louisiana after the storm,” McGraw says. “All these transplants, they had moved all over. They started ordering crawfish, and they exposed people to their culture.” Since Katrina, McGraw says his business has grown by 20 to 30 percent a year, and dozens of other companies have begun shipping live crawfish.