2015 – THE YEAR IN (BRIEF) REVIEW
What a great 2015 it’s been at the Oyster House. Year in Review? Very, very roughly…
Last January, and indeed all Winter saw brutal storms continue to pound the Maritimes. Late Winter and early Spring had us really working hard to source out top quality Oysters from the few growers still fishing out there. Thank God for Massachussets and BC.
At the end of the month, we opened Rodney’s Oyster House Calgary, in the Beltline District – 315 seats across two floors, clawed out of a former nightclub. Great support from the city ever since (even if oil is under $40 a barrel right now. Yikes)!
February is when many of our crew take a holiday – the shortest month, and usually quieter. Baby Harris arrived to Bronwen and Mark, and Eamon slid into the manager’s chair across from Julius. Valentine’s Day always interrupts our rest, and 2015 was no different – three seatings across every surface we could find, with hopeful/desperate Lovers (usually men) calling up until about 6pm hoping we had a spot. Many beautiful babies conceived that night…
In March we broke from tradition, and opened on a Sunday night so the miners at the PDAC convention could join us for big wines and King Crabs. We’ve done this a couple of years in a row now, and we’ll continue the ‘tradition’ in 2016. Rodney, Julius and Eamon drove down to Jordan to blend the next vintage of Sea Legs, our proprietary House wine blend, and a pleasant morning was spent taunting Tom about the Cave Spring hawk. Or lack thereof. And David Donnelley forgot to make a reservation for the first time this year.
April – Rachel got a dog. Cleanup ensued. The Ontario Oyster Festival settled on a Roman theme and ‘Carpe Shuck’em‘ for the event on the 18th of July.
May is the last month of our fiscal year. Once the counting was done, we found that 2014 saw 1.78 million Oysters move through our doors. Approximately 3000 guests every 12 business days. The Oyster emerged from its winter torpor and was showing well, moving from the dormancy of “cold water/no food” to the perkiness of “warm water/time to make babies!”
June in Toronto saw rain, continuing the crap weather we had been experiencing for most of the year so far. There really wasn’t that day when you could walk by the patio at the Black Bull on Queen Street and laugh at how badly sunburned everyone gets on the first nice day of the year. Instead, better weather arrived like an old man easing slowly into a cold bath. Let’s not forget how unimpressive the first half of the year was, in terms of weather.
Eamon and Hayley welcomed baby Eddison. Sturdy. Also in (late) June, crew went down to Ottawa for the Bytowne Shucking Competition, and enjoyed many drinks. Eamon won.
July – Pan-Am Games empties out the downtown core. Reports from some of our neighbours of 20% decreases in sales from past years. It’s great the city has these facilities as a legacy, but as a revenue driver for downtown businesses? Unsuccessful. (Although the Official Party Line may disagree)
Brad Conrad took over operation of Rodney’s Oyster House in Calgary.
July also saw the 28th annual Ontario Oyster Festival on July 18th – record crowds (1600+) battled long food lineups and short drink lineups to watch the province’s top Oyster Shuckers compete. Ride the Tiger and DJ Soulcial provided music. The sun shone. Shirts came off. Eamon won.
August sent a crew out to Tyne Valley in PEI for a Guinness Book World Record (most Oysters shucked in an hour) and the Canadian Shucking Championships. A nice long weekend at Toad Hall in Lower Bedeque chez Rodney, a trip out onto our leases at Rodney’s Oyster Depot, social drinking becoming antisocial drinking, etc. Winner at the Canadians goes on to represent the country at the World Championships in Galway, Ireland. Eamon, at the time only 6-time Champion, won.
In September, Eamon placed 3rd in the world in Galway. Rodney’s (Toronto and Calgary) became Oceanwise partners. Attempts to move our steamer units failed. And Rodney’s joined with Ritual to offer takeout lunch options for our office neighbours.
October saw the Oyster rounding into its Winter form, and we learned that Tommy Joe would sell us more than the usual 3000 Sand Dune oysters he sends us each Fall. Great! A full pricing review, spurred by the high cost of Lobster coming out of the NS side of the Bay of Fundy, found that it was actually costing us money to serve our Lobster Club sandwich. Our request to the CRA for charitable status have since gone unanswered.
November is when the Corporate Xmas Party really starts to take over the city. A great season, seeing regular clients and new ones alike. Great Oysters on the beds, everyone ready to unwind from a busy year, and fairly mild temps led to some great parties. Popular in 2015 – the ‘Oyster Boat Race:’ Shuck an oyster, eat it, drink a half pint of beer, and pass the Oyster knife on to the next member of the team. Only drops of blood spilled, and bragging rights earned until 2016. Or the rematch, right Jeff?
December means lights, wreaths, port and the Wheel of Stilton roaming the restaurant. Lots of families out celebrating, in groups of varying sizes, as well as the last company parties of the year. We smoked and canned some oysters with Charlotte at Scout Canning – delicious. I think we’ll do it again next year.
Later December sees an increase in Takeout Oyster interest – 3200+ oysters packed (shucked or un-) on Xmas Eve day alone. The crew got 3 days off in a row, which was, for all of them, a well-earned break. This was our best Holiday Season in 28 years, and that’s saying something. A strong end to 2015 with New Year’s Eve, and the curtain fell around 3am as the crew locked the door and crept off into the cool air of 2016.