Van Hollen visits Hoopers Island Oyster Co.

CAMBRIDGE – U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen came to Cambridge on Feb. 16, to visit and take a tour of the Hoopers Island Oyster Company manufacturing plant on Chesapeake Drive. There to greet him were business partners Ricky Fitzhugh and Johnny Shockley, along with HIOC employees and county and city representatives. Mayor Victoria Jackson-Stanley and County Council President Ricky Travers were on hand, as were economic development representatives Jeff Trice (county) and Brandon Hesson (city), and other city officials.

For the senator, visiting an oyster company was like old-home week. “My great-great grandfather was in the oyster business,” he told The Banner. “He had a company called the Atlantic Packing Company, out of Baltimore, and his company packed and shipped oysters by rail to cities all over the country.”

Johnny Shockley gave a tour of the facility, and a quick description of how oysters are farmed and processed in aquaculture. Mr. Shockley also showed off some of the specialized equipment HIOC has developed for the oyster farming market, and pointed out that the majority of HIOC’s equipment sales are to far-flung destinations, like California, the Gulf Coast, and Australia.

“It’s great to see this business helping to revive the Maryland oyster industry,” said the senator. “Obviously we have nationally known oysters here in Dorchester County, but there’s also a big business in aquaculture. This company is the hotbed of innovation, right here. In addition to growing their own oysters, Johnny and Ricky are also building their own innovative equipment and shipping it throughout the country, and the world. Really, I think the goal is to bring back the golden days of the Maryland oyster industry.”

Of course, no trip to Hoopers Island Oyster Company would be complete without a few oysters spread around. Johnny and Ricky had their latest offerings available to try, which now include Chesapeake Golds, Mermaids, Poseidons, and Chesapeake Smokes. They also had a pot of their signature oyster stew, which proved to be quite popular with those in attendance.

Senator Van Hollen was impressed with what he saw, and tasted. “To me, this is an important part of Maryland’s heritage, and it’s great to see Hoopers Island Oyster Company working to re-ignite the golden age of oystering,” said the senator. “I would like to see Hoopers Island Oyster Company make this the world capital of the oyster industry — Dorchester County and Cambridge.”

Paul Clipper is the editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at pclipper@newszap.com.

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