Shell life

When I toured Taylor Shellfish Co. in Shelton, Wash., last fall, I was expecting to see something a little bigger in scale than the small oyster operations on Maine’s Damariscotta River. I knew the company sold oysters all over the world and had a variety of products. But I had no idea of the scale of success I would see in this quiet little town.

When we pulled into the diner at a sleepy intersection of the town’s two main roads, I figured this was small-town life with a business that reflects it.

Read more about Taylor Shellfish Co., the Swaggy B and the Maine Lobster Boat Races in the September issue. Subscribe to the magazine and our newsletter today.

Even the offices at Taylor, which are run out of a family member’s childhood home, lull you into the sense that there’s nothing more than an unassuming and quaint little oyster production humming in the background.

The fifth generation of the family’s business works together with several desks portioning off workspaces in what once may have been someone’s bedroom — no corner offices for these managers and directors. It reminded me of the offices of many small fishing businesses and research facilities — tidy, small, simple but abuzz with energy. I think there’s something about working with live creatures that keeps vitality running through your veins.

The folks who work for Taylor are bright, vibrant and educated about their company and its vast array of products. And perhaps most important, they are excited about it. At this global shellfish company that works by cultivating natural habitats, it’s what’s outside that counts.

While I was there, I had the chance to tour both of the company’s on-site processing facilities, an oyster nursery on Oakland Bay, and the retail store, where I sampled oysters and geoduck chowder made by the renowned Taylor Shellfish chef, Xinh Dwelley.

Oct. 29, 2016, marked the end of a 21-year adventure for Dwelley. The company’s Shelton restaurant, Xinh’s Clam and Oyster House, opened in 1996 to showcase Dwelley’s innovative approach to seafood. Though she opted to step away from the daily chore of running the restaurant, Dwelley still works for the company, and the space is still being used for local events and to provide prep space for large catering events, as well. While I just missed my chance to eat a full Xinh meal, I didn’t miss the opportunity to see the breadth of the Taylor shellfish kingdom and learn about the family’s connections back to Wyatt Earp in Arizona. Read the full feature on the Taylor Shellfish Co. starting on p. 18.

The Taylor family’s not the only one with a wild tale to tell. On page 24, Kirk Moore chronicles the misadventures of the Swaggy B, a multispecies New Jersey boat converted from a Louisiana shrimper.

If you’re not in the mood for fish tales, maybe shopping the best handheld VHF is more your speed. Boats & Gear Editor Jean Paul Vellotti highlights his picks and what features got them into the lineup on p. 30.

On page 36, you’ll find an engine-revving review of the latest Maine Lobster Boat Races by former Boats & Gear Editor Michael Crowley. It just wouldn’t be summer without it.

About the author

Jessica Hathaway

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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