Two summers ago, Brendan Parsons launched BP’s Shuck Shack, Portland’s first oyster-selling food cart. Now the Nobleboro native is bringing his passion for oysters back to Lincoln County with a retail distribution center and plans for a raw bar and retail shop at 68 Main St. in Newcastle.
Parsons’ familiarity with oysters comes, in part, from his experience working on oyster farms and managing a raw bar for Seacoast Catering in Nobleboro. He brought his love of oysters to the streets of Portland in 2015 with BP’s Shuck Shack, where he serves oysters from the Damariscotta River with a variety of sauces from a food cart.
In his drives from Portland to Damariscotta, Parsons began to consider the possibility of opening an oyster distribution center to clean and sort the oysters.
“From growing up here, it felt like this would be the perfect spot to have something like this,” Parsons said. “This is where aquaculture first started in Maine, and the town landing a lot of the farmers work out of is right downtown.”
He began looking for a possible location and stumbled across 68 Main St., across Pump Street from the Newcastle town office. The building was most recently home to the nonprofit OceansWide Inc.
OceansWide moved to Winter Harbor at Acadia National Park last year, according to founder and President Campbell “Buzz” Scott.
“The park offered us a chance to move in and do our programming there, and it just seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up,” Scott said. “The move started about two years ago and last year we made it official.”
Parsons shared his business idea with Rob Nelson, the property’s owner, worked out a lease agreement in January, and started renovating the building to meet the business’s needs.
Part of the building is devoted to Damariscotta River Distribution, where oysters are cleaned, sorted by size, and packed for delivery to restaurants around the state. By having a distribution center in a public setting, Parsons hopes to foster greater understanding of the industry.
“There’s a huge educational component to all of this. Aquaculture is such a huge part of this region, and I hope that doing something like this helps to bring more public awareness to it,” Parsons said.
Damariscotta River Distribution has been up and running since Parsons received approval for the distribution operation from the Newcastle Planning Board on March 16.
In order to best utilize the building, Parsons decided to convert the rest of the space into a raw bar and retail shop, collectively named The Shuck Station. Both will feature oysters from several farmers in an effort to properly represent all the region has to offer, Parsons said.
“People may think there’s only one or two growers in the area, but in reality there are several farms who are working right here in the region,” Parsons said. “The farmers are active, hardworking people, and I want to showcase that.”
In the raw bar, staff will provide customers information on farms and the qualities of each oyster, including growing techniques and the differences between species. Customers will also be able to choose a “taste the river” option, where they will receive a map of the region and start by sampling oysters from Great Salt Bay, then work their way down the river to South Bristol.
“A lot of people only know if they like oysters or if they don’t,” Parsons said. “A big part of this whole project will be education and teaching people that there are differences between oysters.”
In the future, Parsons said he hopes to obtain a license to serve wine and beer at The Shuck Station to showcase breweries around the state, including Newcastle’s Oxbow Brewing Co. and Monhegan Brewing Co. The retail shop will carry apparel and other merchandise, as well as oysters for sale for people who wish to shuck their own at home.
Parsons hopes to open The Shuck Station by June, pending the approval of the planning board and the Newcastle Design Review Board, as well as the necessary state permits.
In addition to his undertakings in Newcastle, Parsons will cater several weddings and other events over the summer. BP’s Shuck Shack, now with two carts, will continue to operate in Portland.
“I’ll definitely be staying busy,” Parsons said. “But I’m working with people I trust and can depend on. It’s a team effort for sure.”
Parsons will work in Damariscotta River Distribution and deliver the oysters to various restaurants and eateries, including BP’s Shuck Shack. Although he now lives in Portland, he returns to Lincoln County almost daily in order to get the “freshest oysters available” from the Damariscotta River.
The proximity to the river and Parsons’ passion for the area are two of the reasons why he chose to locate his new businesses in Newcastle.
“This was an opportunity to bring a brick-and-mortar store back to where I grew up, and I’m very excited about that,” Parsons said. “People have been very receptive about it. They’re excited to see the building in use. It’s one of the first things people see when they come around the curve into Newcastle, and I think it will be nice having something here highlighting the aquaculture industry in the region.”
To stay up to date on the progress of the building, find BP’s Shuck Shack on Facebook. A page for Damariscotta River Distribution and The Shuck Station will be created in the future.