“It’s authentic…you can come as you are’

By on March 14, 2023

Argie with new Blue Crab patron Tommy King. (Photo courtesy of Tommy King)

Argie Shultz celebrates 30 years running The Blue Crab

Argie Shultz, now celebrating her 30th year operating the Blue Crab on Colington Road, isn’t your typical dive bar owner.

After moving to the United States in 1966 from Chios, Greece, an island in the Aegean Sea, Argie got her start in the U.S. working in a mattress factory in Ohio. It was there that she met her ex-husband, and the couple raised two children and moved to Florida. The marriage ended in divorce in 1980.

While Argie was wondering what to do, her sister invited her and her children to the Outer Banks, where she and her husband owned the Atlas Family Restaurant in Kill Devil Hills.

Shultz immediately loved the Outer Banks and knew it was home. Over the next few years, she worked multiple jobs at classic Outer Banks haunts, like Buoy 9, a now closed down dive bar in Nags Head that was popular in the eighties, and at Etheridge Seafood, a seafood restaurant that moved into the Atlas building when her sister’s family sold the restaurant.

“She’s always been a hard worker,” said her son, Chris Shultz, attributing that to her childhood in Greece, where she was raised on a ranch, tending to goats and chickens and growing fruit trees.

“I think if you’re born in another country, and you make the effort to come here, you know, there’s a reason and you’re chasing a better life, and you’re chasing a dream and you’re not going to take anything for granted,” Chris said.

In 1988, Argie landed behind the bar at Creekside, which was what the previous owners called the bar before Argie took over and renamed it the Blue Crab. In 1993, the previous owners decided they wanted to sell and Argie got the money together to make a down payment.

“I still can’t believe it’s mine,” she said in a Voice interview.

In the 30 years that Argie has owned the bar, she has been the sole employee. Now at 80 years old, you can still find her behind the bar seven days a week with no signs of stopping. She says she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“When I left my husband, I never had enough. I had two kids. My son was twelve and my daughter was ten. I never had no house. I lost my home. And I worked every day so that I could recover what I lost—and I did it. Now I have three houses. Every day I work, and I’m happy,” Shultz said. “I’m happy because I’ve got something.”

According to Chris, the bar is the heart of his mother’s social life. She’s made many of her close friends there over the years and many of the men see her as a mother figure. Over the years, some of the regulars would come in and blow their whole paycheck on drinks. They started giving their money to Shultz to protect it for them, so that they wouldn’t spend it. And she did.

Both Argie and the bar haven’t changed much over the years, with the exception of the gazebo addition. Chris said that because the building is a small concrete flat top fishing house that was built in 1950, any kind of changes or additions to the building would not meet today’s codes. According to him, it’s kind of grandfathered in.

“It can survive as it is now, but it’s kind of destined to more or less remain as it is,” he said.

When Argie first took over the bar in ‘93, there was no internet. According to Chris, his mother didn’t advertise, Colington was off the beaten path, and there wasn’t much going on to bring people back there. It became a local blue collar, workingman’s bar, frequented by fisherman, construction workers, painters.

“And I guess it’s sort of got a reputation as being a little roughneck. But I don’t think it ever was that dangerous, because my mom was pretty strict on things, and she would not hesitate to get in between two big guys if they were starting to fight. She would literally just put herself in front of people, and she’s not a real big person,” Chris laughed.

People like Kelsey Hunter, who grew up in Colington, can’t imagine coming of age without the tradition of turning 21 and going to the Blue Crab.

“The Blue Crab is like a rite of passage to any kid that grew up in Colington,” says Hunter, now 36. “And when you walked in for the first time – they knew” that you weren’t a regular.

Now, though, more tourists and folks outside of the Colington city limits are finding the Blue Crab and are drawn to its type of charm. Tommy King, from Colorado, is one of them.

“I stopped in my first day to grab a beer,” he told the Voice. “After spending the first day convincing Argie I was not a cop [she was skeptical of his Colorado ID], I proceeded to spend at least a couple of beers worth of time in there every day for the remainder of my month’s stay, eventually earning my Crabbie Club Patch. The Blue Crab is truly a special place because of Argie.”

The view from the back of the Blue Crab. (Photo courtesy The Blue Crab)

Over the years they have had many traditions, from NASCAR Sundays to pool tournaments to Christmas, Halloween, and Fourth of July parties. This year, they will have a series of events to celebrate their 30th year, including a three-day 4/20 weekend bash with live music from The Yacht Dogs, Hot Sauce, and The Ramble, and a 4th of July party that will be held on the 1st of July.

While these days she embraces the term, Chris said Argie was initially offended when she heard the words “dive bar.”

“She thought it was derogatory,” he said. But he explained to her that it’s actually a term of endearment to most people, signifying a place where people feel comfortable to be themselves, and to get the “locals” experience.

“It’s authentic,” said Chris. “There’s nothing about the place that looks contrived. You can come as you are. People aren’t judgmental. And you really feel and experience what it’s like to be from the area. To me…the power in places like the Crab is that you’re seeing what life is like here. You know, the good, bad and ugly—I guess, because you know, that’s the way life is.”

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  • WindyBill

    A true Outer Banks treasure! Real people, real beer, real friendly good times, where everyone may or may not know your name and it really doesn’t matter. Be There!

    Tuesday, Mar 14 @ 2:20 pm
  • Douglas Victor

    Heart warming story

    Wednesday, Mar 15 @ 6:22 am