The oyster industry has lasted longer than any other resource driven industry,” said Tommy Kellum of W. E. Kellum Seafood. “It has been a part of history since history began here in Virginia.”
Kellum is a third generation of his family who have owned and operated a shucking house in Virginia’s Oyster Country. Tommy’s great grandfather W. Ellery Kellum started the business in 1948. Today, Tommy and his brothers produce nearly 600,000 bushels a year.
“Even after the MSX disease that wiped out most of the oysters in the 1990s, we’ve been able to come back and even grow,” Kellum said of the local oyster industry.
The Kellum shucking house provides jobs to the region’s commercial waterman, oyster shuckers, truck drivers, and more. Kellum says that these key players are also often second, third, and fourth generations of families who have made a living in the oyster industry.
“We are seeing younger waterman joining the profession,” Kellum said. “It’s a great sign that the industry is alive and well and we’re able to keep up with the growing demand.”
The Bay stays busy with activity, especially by the commercial waterman. Kellum says many of them are investing in new engines, boats, and tools as business continues to go well.
Where to Enjoy Kellum Oysters
Like other shucking houses in the region, Kellum and his family send oysters around the country. Kellum oysters can be found in Kroger, Whole Foods, Capitain D’s, and more. Why not enjoy them right here in Oyster Country?
Byrd’s Seafood has become well known for its fried oyster tacos, which are made with Kellum oysters. You can enjoy them Friday evening during Good Luck Cellars‘ Wine Down Fridays. Byrd Seafood also serves it’s famous oyster creations at weddings, private parties, festivals and more. Visit the Facebook page to find out where you can find them!
If you’d like to eat your oysters with a view, Willaby’s Restaurant and the Chesapeake Restaurant at the Tides Inn also serve oysters from Kellum Seafood. Both restaurants serve oysters that could have been in the Bay less than 24 hours before they make it to your plate. It doesn’t get much fresher than that!
If you want to try fixing the oysters yourself, the Tri Star Super Market sells Kellum Seafood oysters. Try one of six Kellum family recipes featured here. From sauteed oysters, to oyster casserole, to fritters, you’ll find something to please your whole family during your next visit.
Investing the Future of the Bay
As Kellum mentioned before, the demand for oysters is high, which is great for business and the Bay if done right. Kellum and his family honor the environmental role oysters play in keeping the Chesapeake Bay clean.
“I think a lot of people forgot how important the oysters are in keeping the Bay a healthy place to live and eat,” he said. “We not only need to keep replenishing the resource for our customers, but the entire health of the region hinges on keeping the Bay clean.”
Through a separate business, Kellum Brothers, the Kellum family experiments with building oyster reefs out of concrete to help rebuild reefs that have met with decline. Kellum Brothers also clean and cure recycled oyster shells, place them in huge water tanks containing oyster larvae, and then plants them in rivers and the Bay to grow, clean the bay, and feed the region.
“While some things are the same as they’ve always been, aquaculture has really helped us grow over the years.”