Oysters are enjoying a renaissance across the country and that was clear as neighbors stopped in today at the first of its kind – The Shop – on Munjoy Hill. Oyster lovers have been keeping a watchful eye for the opening of this new space at 123 Washington Avenue for several months now. This noon these watchers were rewarded when the sliding glass doors were open to lots of sunshine and for business.
“This space is different because we own it outright,” said Chris Sherman, of Island Creek Oysters, based in Duxbury, Massachusetts, late this afternoon. The revered Island Creek Oysters restaurant in Kenmore Square in Boston is a shared ownership with the chefs at the hotel. That restaurant was founded in 2011. And it is a full-service restaurant with a full-menu said Ron Green, who with his wife Rhonda were frequent patrons of the Boston restaurant. “It’s always crowded there. In fact, it’s jammed because it’s so popular.”
Recently relocated to Munjoy Hill, the Greens were extremely enthusiastic about the Boston restaurant. “When we found out what this space was going to be, we got really excited,” said Ron. “The people who work there are the best. Just like here.” (The Greens were also patrons of the now defunct Rousabout, of which Kit Paschall, was the owner.) Likewise, Elyse Schwarberg and Seth Doyle, also Hill residents said they have been watching for the opening as well. (Doyle, who plays guitar for the popular Tricky Britches, said his band broke records with 975 attending the Summer Concert series at Ft. Allen Park last week! See above top left photo.)
The Shop is a retail market for shell fish, a fast/casual space with seating for 75 people as well as a distribution center for oysters all over the country.
Currently the company, founded in 1992 by Skip Bennett, sells Island Creek Oysters to 6,000 chefs in 44 states. One of the company’s biggest markets of New England oysters is San Francisco.
But the distribution center on Washington Avenue will focus primarily on Maine oysters in the future. That’s because “Maine has a lot more coastal resources to grow oysters because of its long coast line. Currently there are 150 pre-revenue farms on the Maine coast,” said Sherman. Damariscotta has the most mature farms in the state because they’ve been at it for a long time he said. Mook Sea Farm on the Damariscotta River is an example. Cold water, high level of salt and the kind of algae are the factors that produce quality oysters he said.
“I could tell before they opened they were creating a multi-purpose space that can be used for private events,” said Kristen Coffield, known professionally as The Culinary Cure. “There is a real renaissance of oyster production. They are healthy for the environment because oysters naturally filter the water they grow in. Oysters are the single best source of zinc. They are good for the system on a cellular level. Better than getting a flue shot,” Coffield said. She and her husband, an attorney in Washington, D.C. are summer residents of Peaks Island. Please visit www.theculinarycure.com for more information.
“People told me that the only reason I wanted to start this new space in Portland was so I could come up here and visit,” said Sherman laughing. Sherman once lived in the area.
The Shop will be open from Wednesday – Sunday from noon on and closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Please see previous post herein dated August 22, 2017 for more background information on The Shop.