Gerald Schantz is Tybee’s favorite tie-dye wearing, pork-slinging, bearded hippie, living a life dedicated to philanthropy and feeding people good meals. When you drive out to the island you can’t help but notice Gerald’s Pig & Shrimp with its cartoon sign and mural and open-air patio off to the left just as you pull into the Tybee city limits. Gerald’s food has a history just as linked to helping in the community as it is to filling hungry bellies.
How did Gerald’s Pig and Shrimp come to be?
I love Tybee and I love good food! I’m a Savannah native. But, I was coming to Tybee and my mother was eating at Williams Seafood (a fish camp that used to be at Bull River) before I was even born. Finally moved to Tybee 15 years ago with the Gerald’s Pig & Shrimp Food Truck, land ater we added the pole barn (covered, open air dining room) and then just before the pandemic we built the kitchen.
But your food has always been linked to charity. It seems you’re always raising money for a good cause.
You need to give back to the community, help the people that need help when they need it. Before I opened my food business for profit I started doing BBQs for charity, it started back with 911. We did a couple events in Johnson Square and sent the money to the Red Cross in New York City. And we kept going with it. After the big fire at the sugar refinery, we raised–I wanna say $23,000–on a Sunday afternoon. We just served food and asked for donations. We didn’t set an amount ‘cause I learned if you ask for X amount of dollars, that’s what people are gonna give you. If you ask for donations they give from the heart. There’ll be some people who just give you $5, but there are those who gave $100 and only buy two meals. Ya know? They’re donating to the cause, they’re not just buying the food.
Right! Because food and philanthropy go hand in hand, you say.
I don’t want to put a label on something. But it’s help when help is needed. I’ve got this really strong childhood memory of my father bringing home some people one night. I had no idea who they were. They were from New Jersey and had been hurt in an auto accident. My father stopped and talked with them and ended up bringing them home. They became lifelong friends. Ya know, my father was the liaison for the Jewish troops at Parris Island and the Jewish community here in Savannah back in the 60s. He would arrange for them to have a Seder Meal at Passover and to come to the Synagogue for the High Holy Days.
Wait, so you’re Jewish? But it’s Gerald’s Pig & Shrimp?
It’s a business. I just enjoy cooking and giving the people a good meal. Besides, it’s fun! I like meeting new people, hearing their stories, how they got here, why they’re here. Ya know? What I enjoy the most is when we get people come back to Tybee, they were here years ago and they come back to Gerald’s ‘cause they enjoyed the food.
So what’s next?
I’ll be 70 at some point… And when I retire I hope to be able to continue to do charity work. But, I don’t know what retirement is. Ya know? You want to stay busy, travel a little, visit old friends. I have no idea when retirement will happen, but I’ll get back to ya…
Right now Gerald’s Pig and Shrimp does not have business hours due to extreme staffing shortages, but the catering business is still up and running. Reach out and say hello at GPSBBQ.com.