Shane Billiot knows what it means to come through a natural disaster.
Not only did he make it through Hurricane Harvey when he was living in the Houston area in 2017, but he also endured relentless floods when he was living in Louisiana the year prior.
Billiot is now making the best of the extreme winter storm that has crippled nearly all of Texas this week.
As co-owner of both locations of OMG Seafood—one in Bryan and one in San Marcos— Billiot said it was in part due to his experience with the Houston and Louisiana disasters that led him to give away more than $12,000 of food from his establishments Feb. 16.
There were also more immediate factors.
“I bought up [several thousand pounds of crawfish] in preparation for Valentine’s Day weekend. ... Plus, not only was it Valentine’s Day weekend, but it was the weekend before Mardi Gras, and we have Lent that started [Feb. 17],” Billiot said. “So, I bought up [several thousand pounds of crawfish], and with this snowstorm happening, it prevented us from being able to operate.”
In total, Billiot had about 3,500 pounds of crawfish that were still sitting in his two restaurants the morning of Feb. 16.
Rather than let it go to waste, he posted a notice from OMG Seafood’s Facebook page that morning.
“We are boiling #Crawfish and giving it away for #Free,” the post stated. “If you need something hot and spicy to eat, come see us. Please travel safely.”
From about 10:30 a.m. until OMG Seafood ran out of food in both locations at about 6 p.m., Billiott estimated he and his crew fed easily more than 1,000 people.
“I boiled up ... around 3,000-3,5000 pounds of crawfish, and we gave that out for free,” he said. “And then after we ran out of crawfish, we started frying catfish and giving that away.”
Between the store in Bryan and the store in San Marcos, Billiot said the total value of food given out that day exceeded $12,000.
In the San Marcos store alone, Billiot said the line never ended, and while he would like to do it again until the severe winter weather lets up, he is no longer able.
“I don’t have anymore crawfish,” he said. “I don’t have anymore food. I gave out all our food.”
Billiot said he grew up in foster homes throughout New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Houma and Ruston, and besides his aforementioned experience with natural disasters, the story of his youth is another factor that helped motivate his Feb. 16 endeavor.
OMG Seafood, which launched in San Marcos in December 2019, has been closed since Feb. 15, when the sleet, freezing rain and snow began creating massive power outages and impassable roads throughout Hays County and Central Texas.
Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra announced a state of disaster on Feb. 14 for at least seven days; the neighboring city of Kyle issued a statement on Feb. 15 that all water usage should be suspended temporarily; and by Feb. 16, San Marcos CISD announced it would be closed at least through the next day.
Billiot said he still does not know when he will be able to open again, but it does not look like it will be in the next day or so.
Compared with a normal week, Billiot said he is losing 100% of his revenue this week.
Feb. 16 will likely end up the only day his establishments will have been open, even though no money changed hands that day.
Among the approximately 1,000 people OMG was able to feed were those who lived near each location and were able to walk. That includes many students at Texas State University.
“College students, they’re living day to day,” he said. “They’re not going grocery shopping and spending $100, $200, $300 on groceries and stocking up.”
Cibolo resident Chris Beach said her son, Mark Beach, a freshman at TSU, lives in a dorm about six blocks from OMG Seafood’s location at 205 Moore St. in San Marcos.
Chris said her son and his roommate were able to walk to the restaurant after she told him about the social media post she saw earlier that day.
“I saw it on Facebook that they had the crawfish, and I almost didn’t tell him because I didn’t know what the sidewalks were like ... but then I decided to tell him,” Beach said, adding OMG ran out of crawfish by the time Mark and his roommate got there, which she estimates to be about 3 p.m. “But that’s when they started frying up the catfish.”
She said Mark and his roommate got a to-go container of catfish, fries and a biscuit each.
Because the electricity in San Marcos was showing no signs of turning back on anytime soon, Beach said her husband made the trek From Cibolo to her son’s dorm at 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 16 to pick up Mark, and they made it back home by 11 p.m.
Regarding the free food Mark received from OMG, Chris said she will remain grateful.
“We will definitely be spending our money [at OMG] next time we’re in San Marcos,” Chris said.
As for Billiot, he said what he and his team did all day on Feb. 16 was an obvious move.
“Honestly, the crawfish was sitting in my coolers, and with the electricity going in and out, the crawfish wasn’t going to survive anyway,” Billiot said. “So, God put it in my heart that it was the right thing to do, and I’m happy that I obeyed.”
'God put it in my heart': San Marcos restaurant gives away nearly all of its food during crippling winter storm
Residents of San Marcos walk to OMG Seafood in San Marcos to take advantage of the free food the restaurant was giving away all day Feb. 16. (Courtesy Joseph Daley)