Throughout the past two years many businesses have been forced to rethink their offering and launch new arms of their firms to survive during the pandemic.
And like some of their competitors, north-east shellfish merchants Murray McBay & Co opened their first consumer shop where locals and tourists alike can pop in to pick up freshly landed produce.
While their main markets are primarily exporting, it was the need to diversify during the pandemic which brought the shop idea and new commercial entity to life.
Celebrating its first year in business on Hogmanay, The Lobster Shop at the harbourside in Johnshaven was established by the McBay family and has proven a huge success, with thousands flocking to the small store to get their seafood fix.
Since completion of the newbuild project in late 2020, it has proudly showcased some of the best seafood and local produce that Scotland’s shores and land has to offer.
What’s on offer at The Lobster Shop?
But it is the firm’s carefully prepared lobster and crab which has attracted many to the coastal village. While they are served whole and dressed, the team at The Lobster Shop have also transformed the produce into quality dishes like lobster and crab subway rolls, toasties, salads, quiche and more.
They also offer a range of shellfish platters and pre-cooked lobster that guests can enjoy at home, as well as their winter platter which will be available until March.
Included is one whole cooked and dressed lobster, four freshly cooked and cracked crab claws, four steamed langoustine, rich brown crab pate with oatcakes, a homemade Marie Rose dipping sauce, homemade garlic butter and some ready-to-warm through hassleback tatties.
Loren McBay opened the store with her two brothers Ivar and Jason, with her parents Ivar senior and Jackie also involved in the business.
She said: “We had visitors asking if Murray McBay & Co could prepare seafood for them. After years of seeing all the amazing seafood being exported we took the jump to retail and kept our fingers crossed people would be as interested as we hoped for freshly prepared seafood.
“The public showed great demand for the take home lobster option. After selling our family recipe Ruth’s lobster salad and fresh lobster rolls at the local fish festival a few years ago we thought they would do well at the shop – and they did!
“It’s an absolute joy to see customers appreciate just how tasty our local seafood can be.”
Those paying a visit may be able to catch a glimpse of the creel fishing boats operating offshore from the seating area on the sea wall nearby, and they can also engage with staff who can share their knowledge on sustainable seafood.
In 2022 The Lobster Shop will launch a mix of educational media, presentations and events aiming to promote the fishing industry – landing, processing/prepping and sales – and sustainability.
She said: “We want to show people that fishing and seafood processing can be a viable sector and we will start with some fun interaction pieces at our shop to show some facts and videos on how, where and what we catch on our coastline around the north-east.
“We hope to encourage new fishermen, kitchen staff and youngsters passionate about seafood to the sector as it would be great not just for us, but for the local fishing community as a whole.
“For more than 75 years our family has played a key part in the supply of fresh Scottish shellfish to wholesalers, retailers and restaurants across the UK and Europe, working closely with our local fishers and developing lasting relationships.
“We now have a greater opportunity to present how our combined skills and techniques advocate responsible and sustainable creel fishing for the future.”
With more than 6,000 transactions documented on the card machine in the past year, is it no surprise the team at The Lobster Shop have been kept busy.
The team has grown to six employees, two partners (Loren’s mum and dad) and one part-time Saturday worker now employed.
The firm has also benefitted from a royal visit in recent months, too.