The Jolly Oyster is getting ready to showcase its signature shellfish with a new Torrance shop. What’s even more appetizing is that this seafood store, an offshoot of a cult favorite in Ventura, is expanding beyond the oysters and clams it sells at San Buenaventura State Beach Park. There will also be new offerings like bay scallops, stone crab claws, sea urchin, and an expanded list of clams, all obtained directly from fishermen.
While The Jolly Oyster has made its name near the Ventura waterfront, its story began nearly 20 years ago across the pond.
That’s when Mark Reynolds left his lucrative yet unfulfilling banking career in England to start his life over. After some serious soul-searching, he packed up and moved to California with dreams to farm and sell oysters.
Reynolds and his friend/business partner Mark Venus agreed that the state of modern fish farming was in peril with environmentally harmful practices. They vowed to create an eco-friendly system of aquaculture that was sustainable, healthful, humane, and local.
The duo set up a Baja California oyster and clam farm, which they dubbed Maxmar Mariscos. Despite struggling at first, their farm endured. Fourteen months later, after the first seeding, they were selling oysters within Baja. In 2003, they were permitted to export into the United States.
Then, three years ago, Reynolds’ The Jolly Oyster (Shuck Shack) humbly launched its Ventura retail outlet, modeled after the respected Hog Island Oyster Company on the Northern California coast. The Jolly Oyster’s small trailer near the water sells Kumamoto and Pacific oysters as well as Manila clams, all from the Baja farm. The newest product is a Jolly oyster, a cross of Kumamotos and Pacifics. For $1.25 an oyster, guests can shuck or grill the shellfish themselves at the park just off the beach. (The type of food license the business holds prevents any actual food preparation.)
The Jolly Oyster’s new Torrance location, in a complex that is anchored by a Nijiya Market and will have an outpost of the Marugame Monzo udon shop moving in, is a small, 650-square-foot retail space. It’s not an oyster bar or any kind of restaurant, but it will offer half-shell oysters to go — something the current Shuck Shack can’t do.
Reynolds learned that some of his loyal customers visited The Jolly Oyster from the South Bay and as far afield as Orange County. Establishing the Torrance store is a way to be closer to many of The Jolly Oyster’s fans.
Look for a post-Christmas opening date. Have a Holly Jolly Oyster!
The Jolly Oyster in Nijiya Plaza, 2143 W. 182nd St., Torrance