This guest post comes to us from Deep End Diner and Good Food contributor Eddie Lin.
The Jolly Oyster shack is slotted just between the San Buenaventura State Beach coastline and the beach’s parking lot. It’s a humble trailer that’s not quite a food truck nor a snack shop. In fact, the type of food license that the Jolly Oyster holds does not allow the staff to cook the clams or even shuck the oysters sold there. Customers can buy oysters (Kumamoto or Pacific) or clams (Manila) and shuck or cook the shellfish for themselves. Picnic tables and barbecue grills are available as well as sauces and bags of briquets. If you forget or don’t have an oyster knife, they’re available for $5.
The Jolly Oyster’s menu of two types of oysters, one kind of clam and bottled water is even more spare than that of In-N-Out Burger. It’s the kind of place you’d picture an ex-corporate type cannonballing into after career burnout — selling oysters, soaking up sunshine, and surfing during breaks, you know, the simple life. Well, that’s sort of true for The Jolly Oyster co-founder Mark Reynolds. He’s a former banker from England who decided that what he was doing with his life was not what he wanted to do. So he allied himself with friend Mark Venus and the two conspired to get into the sustainable seafood business. That’s where the easy part ends.
Back in 1997, the two set off the create an aquaculture and mollusk farming business based in Baja California called The Baja Oyster Company that is modeled after the acclaimed Hog Island Oysters up in Marshall, CA. After 15 years of trials and tribulations, the business was finally viable, selling wholesale to restaurants. Then, a little more than a year ago, The Jolly Oyster made its debut on the San Buenaventura Beach so locals and visitors alike can experience the sweetest and fattest oysters around, shipped weekly from the farm (after about 18 to 24 months of growing). All this for a buck a piece. Now, that really is a jolly oyster.