Precedent Analysis

The J.M. Clayton Co. complex is situated on a small promontory ½ mile to the east of the Cambridge, MD draw bridge (figure 37). The facility is an ad-hoc agglomeration of buildings organized around a central courtyard (fig. 38). As such, it acts as a two-sided work complex. Crabbing vessels are received at the south and the east, and truck access is from the northwest. This layout affords the facility access to boats around the periphery and allows cars and trucks to penetrate the heart of the facility. According to Brooks, this was not a planned development, merely an accretive agglomeration of a oyster shack to the north and a crab picking shack to the south. According to Brooks: “Every year the Maryland department of health comes out here to look at our operation. Each visit they complain that after steaming and refrigeration, the crab has to come out-of-doors to make its way to the picking house. We just tell them that we’ve been doing it this way for over a hundred years, and they let it go.” In an ideal world, however, Brooks admits that once the crab is cooked and refrigerated, it should remain indoors as it makes its way to the hand picking, machine picking, and packaging operations. When asked to envision his ideal picking and processing facility, Brooks concedes that the building would probably look like one big warehouse large enough to allow for trucks to enter into the building and park in conditioned space. He reiterates this would be particularly important if the facility was to operate year-round.

Figure 37 – JM Clayton Co. picking processing facility, Cambridge, Maryland. Author photo.

Figure 38 - JM Clayton Co Site plan with Working Courtyard Highlighted. Author Illustration.

In 1995, most of JM Clayton’s product went to large supermarkets such as Giant and Safeway. Now, the big grocery chains import all their crab from abroad, and the Maryland Blue Crab, something of a delicacy, is sold directly to restaurants and specialty markets. The bulk of JM Clayton’s product is destined for Charleston, Myrtle Beach, Annapolis, the Delaware resort beaches, Washington, Baltimore, southeast Pennsylvania, and other high-value markets that range as far north as Boston. Whole Foods Market is the only supermarket JM Clayton still sells to. Looking to JM Clayton as a model for selling and distributing blue crabmeat to a expanding boutique market, one could begin to imagine the Whole Foods distribution network as a template for how farmed crabmeat could be distributed in the Midatlantic, Northeast, and Southern regions (fig.39). Dorchester (or perhaps Wicomico County) would be the perfect seat from which to stage such an operation because of regional highway access, and its position at the center of four thriving markets. With this thought in mind, the thesis looks to develop and design a working crab farm located in Dorchester County, Maryland.

Figure 39 - Extended Distribution Network. Author’s Speculative Illustration.

[31] Author’s interview with Jack Brooks, managing director or The JM Clayton Co, conducted July 2, 2009.
[32] Author’s interview with Jack Brooks, managing director or The JM Clayton Co, conducted July 2, 2009.