Three generations of the Wanchese-based Daniels family have operated the business, which buys crabs from local boats and supplies markets along the East Coast, at the end of the U.S. Highway 64 causeway leading from Manteo to Nags Head.
"Right now, I'm in kind of a state of shock," said Mickey Daniels, whose father started the business.
Irene shoved 3 to 4 feet of water through the building, pulling a wall from the floor and rearranging the crab-picking equipment inside.
"The tide just got probably about the highest I've ever seen it since I was a boy," Daniels said.
Dare County officials have condemned the building, and Daniels said he doesn't know yet if he'll try to reopen.
His youngest son, Ivey Daniels, who has run the place for three years, said he doesn't have much hope.
"I don't see us probably opening back as a picking plant again. So, what I've known for my 33 years is probably going to be a memory now," Ivey Daniels said.
Times were already tough in the business, with imports slashing production at Daniels Crab House to about 200 pounds of crab a day – half of what it was churning out a decade ago.
"(Markets) can buy it cheaper than what I can produce it for, much less make a profit," Mickey Daniels said.
Still, Ivey Daniels said he wanted it to be the family's decision if it closed, not Irene's.
"It would have been a little easier to accept than to watch it just go overnight," he said.
Daniels Crab House employed about 10 people – all of whom remain out of a job – but the family said they have other business ventures to keep them going.
Ivey Daniels said he hates that his young son's memory of the family's main business will likely be of the flooding that washed so much away.
"It's been in our family 54 years, and that's the hardest part is the history of it," he said.