Vertical integration pays off for Fanny Bay

Shellfish-farming venture considers opening second oyster bar in B.C.

Fanny Bay Oysters president Brian Yip selects some shellfish at his company's downtown Vancouver oyster bar | Glen Korstrom

Expansion was on Fanny Bay Oysters general manager Brian Yip’s mind March 15 as he hosted an event to create awareness of the 11th Annual B.C. Shellfish and Seafood Festival, which will take place June 9-18 in the Comox Valley.

Yip’s company operates Vancouver’s Fanny Bay Oyster Bar, which is the only seafood restaurant in B.C. that is owned by a shellfish-farming company.

The venue on Cambie Street, just north of Robson Street, opened last June after the seafood company spent a six-figure sum on renovations.

“It’s a lot of work but I think we will try [to open a second location,]” Yip told Business in Vancouver.

“Sales have come into being what we expected and the people who have come to taste fresh farmed product have given us many good reviews.”

He would not say whether the second location is more likely to be in Metro Vancouver, Victoria or another B.C. city.

Former longtime Fanny Bay Oysters owner Glen Haddon sold the company in 2007 to U.S.-based Taylor Shellfish Farms for an undisclosed amount.

The purchase included a processing plant, trademarks, 105 hectares of beach and seabed tenures near Fanny Bay, which is a hamlet on Vancouver Island near Baynes Sound, where much of the company’s operations are located.

Taylor Shellfish then pioneered the strategy of owning vertically integrated oyster bars by opening three such bistros in Seattle.

A fourth location, in Bellevue is set to open this fall.

“Business has been good for us because the ownership has decided to invest more in different farming areas and different farming techniques to enable us to come up with more final product,” Yip said of Taylor Shellfish, which has about 600 employees.

Fanny Bay Oysters, which is run separately, employs between 80 to 90 people at peak season, Yip said.

Most of the company’s sales are for oysters, clams and mussels from B.C. although Fanny Bay also sells products such as geoduck from the U.S.

The B.C. Shellfish and Seafood Festival includes events meant for locals in the Comox Valley but it also has a trade component where overseas buyers are expected to attend to learn about B.C. seafood and potentially strike business partnerships.

The B.C. Ministry of International Trade is subsidizing travel for many of the dozens of foreign buyers who are expected to attend the exposition.

Yip would not reveal Fanny Bay’s annual revenue but he said the company’s sales are diversified with about one-third in Canada, one third in the U.S. and one third in more than a handful of countries in Asia.