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

Beyond Bodegas

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Five years in the making, the Portland Mercado — the city’s first Latino public market — will celebrate its grand opening April 11. A $3.5 million public-private partnership spearheaded by Hacienda CDC, the market will house 15 to 20 businesses in the food, retail and service sectors. It has some big-name funders, including the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and JPMorgan Chase. The project goals are equally ambitious: to improve cross-cultural understanding, alleviate poverty and spur community economic development. 


Read more...

Can small be large?

Linda Baker
Wednesday, April 01, 2015
040115-lindablogthumbBY LINDA BAKER

Leaders in Oregon's ag sector gathered this morning in Portland’s Coopers Hall winery/taproom to discuss the role of the region as an export gateway, impediments to exporting products and solutions to containerized shipping challenges.


Read more...

2015 100 Best companies announced

The Latest
Friday, February 27, 2015
IMG 0022cneditBY OB STAFF

The 100 Best list recognizes large, medium and small companies for excellence in work environment, management and communications, decision-making and trust, career development and learning, and benefits and compensation.


Read more...

European Vacation

Guest Blog
Thursday, April 23, 2015
norristhumbBY JASON NORRIS | GUEST BLOGGER

There are winners and losers with a strengthening U.S. dollar.


Read more...

Footloose

April 2015
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Founded 12 years ago, Keen Inc. likes to push the envelope, starting with the debut of the “Newport” closed toe sandal in 2003. Since then, the company has opened a factory on Swan Island and a sleek new headquarters in the Pearl District. The brand’s newest offering, UNEEK, is a sandal made from two woven cords and not much more.


Read more...

4 highlights of the MLS labor deal

The Latest
Wednesday, March 04, 2015
timbersthumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

On Wednesday night, a couple days ahead of the 2015 season kickoff, Major League Soccer and the Players Union reached an agreement.


Read more...

6 development projects reshaping Bend

The Latest
Thursday, April 09, 2015
bendthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Bend has reclaimed its prerecession title as one of the fastest growing cities in the country.


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