102 years later, still shucking along

| Print |  Email
Archives - March 2009
Sunday, March 01, 2009
oysterphoto.jpg The City Oyster Company opened in 1907 in Portland.

PHOTO COURTESY OF DOUG WACHSMUTH

PORTLAND Louis C. Wachsmuth opened his first oyster at age 5. Twenty-five years later, in 1907, the boy from Oysterville, Wash., moved to Portland and with business partner L. Roland Mills opened a seafood store that would prove resilient enough to survive the Great Depression, multiple recessions, both World Wars and a volatile restaurant scene.

More than 100 years ago, the front of the City Oyster Company wasn't lined with SmartMeters and hybrid cars but with live crabs, stirring wildly in open wooden crates, along with fresh oysters, lobsters and fish.

Now named Dan & Louis Oyster Bar, this downtown eatery is one of Portland's oldest family-owned-and-operated businesses. It claims to have served more oysters on the half shell than any other on the West Coast, and served them up to some famous lips: Mickey Rooney, Sebastian Cabot, Richard Boone and Jonathan Winters, to name a few.

But more importantly, how does a tiny oyster bar survive for over a century?

"Integrity," answers Doug Wachsmuth, a third-generation Wachsmuth and the bar's owner. "You know what they say, 'When the leader gets too far out in front of the troops, he's perceived as the enemy.'"

During World War II, the biggest threat to the oyster bar was the rising cost of commodities, especially butter, Wachsmuth says. And what's oyster stew without butter, anyway? Since then, even with commodities often getting cheaper,  the restaurant business hasn't gotten any easier.

"The sheer volume of restaurants has been our main competition," Wachsmuth says. "Portland has become something of a mecca for restaurants."

To remain competitive, Wachsmuth and his son, Keoni, a culinary arts graduate, have diversified the menu while still maintaining the oyster bar's nostalgic, nautical aesthetic. "It's important to do both if you want to stay relevant today," says Wachsmuth.

With the economy in the tank, there's little doubt that restaurants around Oregon will struggle. Doors will close. Tenants will vacate. But, says, Wachsmuth, "We'll still be here."        CHRIS MILLER


Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

 

More Articles

Reimagining education to solve Oregon's student debt and underemployment problems

News
Thursday, November 13, 2014
carsonstudentdept-thumbBY RYAN CARSON | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

How do we skill up our future technology workforce in a smart way to take advantage of these high-paying jobs? The answer shouldn’t focus only on helping people get a bachelor’s degree.


Read more...

Growing a mobility cluster

News
Friday, October 31, 2014
0414 bikes bd2f6052BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Why are there so few transportation startups in Portland?  The city’s leadership in bike, transit and pedestrian transportation has been well-documented.  But that was then — when government and nonprofits paved the way for a new, less auto centric way of life.


Read more...

Corner Office: Pam Edstrom

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

Seven tidbits of information from an agency partner and co-founder of Waggener Edstrom in Lake Oswego.


Read more...

Free Falling

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, December 18, 2014
121714-oilprice-thumbBY JASON NORRIS | OB CONTRIBUTOR

The implosion of the energy complex: The best thing for low oil prices is low oil prices.


Read more...

The short list: 5 companies making a mint off kale

The Latest
Thursday, November 20, 2014
kale-thumbnailBY OB STAFF

Farmers, grocery stores and food processors cash in on kale.


Read more...

Corner Office: Sheree Arntson

January-Powerbook 2015
Saturday, December 13, 2014

Checking in with the managing director of Arnerich Massena.


Read more...

Old school: Paulsen's Pharmacy maintains old fashion ethos

The Latest
Thursday, December 18, 2014
121914-pharmacy-thumbBY MEGHAN NOLT

VIDEO: Under the radar — complete with a soda counter, the traditional Paulsen's Pharmacy looks to compete with big box retailers.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS