A Fresh Approach for Fresh Oysters: Making Changes as the World Changes

Selling Fjordlux oysters direct off our boat at a pier on West Lake Union was definitely not in our shellfish company’s plans for 2020 – but it was exactly what we found ourselves doing December 2020.

In our five years of commercial harvest at Set & Drift farm, our Fjordlux oysters have been sold almost entirely at premium seafood restaurants nationwide, with almost none direct to consumer. With the immense and heartbreaking impacts to the restaurant industry during the pandemic, however, the past year has been different.

In response, we made big changes to how we do things by bringing our oysters fresh into Seattle for direct sales – right off our boat and direct to you.

It’s one thing to read about businesses working out new strategies in response to the pandemic, but quite another to be a small business actually doing it. Direct sales off our boat is just one idea of several we brainstormed. Each idea required research to see if it really made sense, and it took some time to settle on this particular approach.

Finding an idea that worked…then come the details

Even once we did decide on this format, there were still a lot of details to pin down. Selling oysters out of an oyster skiff involves way more logistics than probably how simple it sounds, from sourcing ice in an amount and price that made sense, to creating a pick-up system off the boat (for our very first week we used a food grade plastic pail to make this happen – fancy? Hardly, but it did the trick. At least now we moved on to food grade stainless steel pans!). Not to mention making sure we had all the certifications, payment platforms, and harvest arrangements in place for this new approach.

Since the get go, we’ve been so pleased and touched by how well it’s gone, and are so happy to  get to know our regulars coming by week to week. It’s gone so well that we added Hama Hama clams to the sales mix, and may even add other shellfish products. 

Focus on what truly matters

Like many other businesses, we’re running a tight crew these days. With just my husband and I working the farm while balancing outside responsibilities, we had to focus our limited time on getting what mattered right for those first sales – and be okay with less important things settling onto the back burner. For example:

  • Most important? The quality and freshness of our oysters, and making sure our operation was socially distant, sanitized, masked, and safe.
  • Less important? How our website appeared. When we finally went to publish the much fussed about draft of our fresh off the boat sales page, it didn’t work. Making it the way we wanted would have taken too much time and expense, so the fix was a bright yellow and fuchsia banner at the top of our website. Though reminiscent of design circa 2004, it functions just fine.

I think about all the business owners around the world having the similar conversations and dealing with their own pandemic challenges. I especially think of our restaurant friends and partners. We are fortunate to have this opportunity and are deeply grateful for the help we’ve received in making it happen.

Aw shucks, we appreciate the enthusiasm and support

Overall, it is an absolute pleasure to continue to farm oysters, and bring healthy, sustainable, and tasty seafood to market. The support and enthusiasm we’ve witnessed in response to our oyster sales is incredibly heartening. Honestly, that alone makes it worthwhile. Thank you.

Your Oyster Farmer,