The bright teal structure next to the Millville Town Peddler is brand new, as are the shiny appliances lining the interior of Millville’s newest eatery — the Mermaid Galley.
The food, however, is classic Eastern Shore. Crabcakes, oyster fritters, macaroni-and-cheese, pretzel salad and corn pudding are just a few of the highlights that owner Samantha Reynolds has been fine-tuning since last August, when she decided to go forward with her newest venture.
At 23, Reynolds already has entrepreneurial experience, having run her own retail and photography businesses for several years.
The recipes she is using at Mermaid Galley go back two generations in her family. Her grandparents, Margaret and Sanford Justice, owned a restaurant called Pitchcroft, on Maryland’s Smith Island, starting in the 1970s, Reynolds said. Her menu includes many of the classic Eastern Shore recipes from her grandparents’ restaurant days, including that most delectable dessert: the signature Smith Island cake.
The cakes feature nine thin layers of cake sandwiched between layers of icing — traditionally yellow cake with chocolate fudge icing. But like most purveyors of Maryland’s official state dessert, Mermaid Galley will offer other flavors of cake and icing as well. Smith Island cake will be available at Mermaid Galley by the slice or by the whole cake, Reynolds said, adding that 24 hours’ notice will be required for whole cakes.
While her grandparents’ recipes form the basis for her menu, Reynolds said she has put her own stamp on it with some variations on the old recipes. For example, her grandparents’ sweet-potato biscuits were such a staple of her younger years that, Reynolds said, “I decided to try apple” instead of sweet potato, “and it worked!” Both biscuit varieties will be available on a regular basis — singly, by the half-dozen or by the dozen.
During her first weekend in business, Reynolds offered not one but two types of pretzel salad — one with regular pretzels and one with chocolate-covered pretzels. Despite rainy, cold weather, Reynolds said response to her opening was almost overwhelming.
“We had people standing out here in the rain waiting for their food,” she said.
Although her maternal grandparents didn’t get to see Reynolds’ new venture come to fruition, she said that, before he passed away in December 2018, her grandfather Sanford Justice, was a big supporter of Mermaid Galley as she worked to get ready for its opening. Her paternal grandparents were also “excellent cooks” from the Laurel area, “and their recipes have been passed down to me, too,” reads a note on the Mermaid Galley menu.
Not only is Reynolds excited to share her family recipes with her customers; she has also enjoyed using her graphic-design skills in crafting menus and logos for the business.
“It’s nice to be able to do things like that yourself,” she said.
Another way Reynolds has found to show her creative side is a little unusual. To see it, customers just have to check out the restroom on the premises.
True to the mermaid theme, it features hand-painted, sparkly mermaid scales on the ceiling, which is also graced by a fun faux-crystal light fixture. Mermaid artwork is splashed across the walls, and there’s even a full-length mirror that doubles as a “selfie spot” with mermaids in the background.
“I’m really proud of this bathroom,” Reynolds said.
In addition to single meals, Mermaid Galley will also be offering larger quantities of menu items, she said. Reynolds said she hopes to have online ordering available soon.
Mermaid Galley will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, with the possibility of later hours during the summer. The address is 35308 Atlantic Avenue, Millville, next to the Millville Town Peddler. For more information, call (302) 604-4883 or visit the Mermaid Galley page on Facebook.
By Kerin Magill