Nixon legacy lives at Ogden Oysters

by Jenny Yarborough
Thursday, December 8, 2011

Staff photo by Joshua Curry

Andy Pettigrew and Chris Hall, not pictured, took ownership of Nixon’s Oyster Plant, in October. They will be doing business as Ogden Oysters.

Andy Pettigrew used to buy oysters off of a neighbor who gleaned nearby beds himself. But four years ago, Pettigrew said, "I just got tired of paying for oysters and decided I was going to try to get them myself one day."

It took him nearly the entirety of his first season to map the marsh for abundant waters, to really get the hang of raking, gathering and cleaning the succulent bivalves, but it wasn’t long before he was knowledgeable and skilled enough to earn a commercial fisherman’s license.

Soon he became an oysterman himself.

Cornelius Nixon, known by the community as the Oyster Man, bought from Pettigrew, the accomplished novice who taught himself how to make a living off of the salt and mud-ridden banks.

When Nixon’s Oyster Plant closed in mid-June, preceding the passing of the 90-year old Nixon, there was a gap to fill. Fishermen needed a new oysterman who would buy from them, and Nixon’s loyal customers needed a place to buy their seafood.

So Pettigrew and a childhood friend, Chris Hall, now business partners, purchased the old building famed for its shellfish.

Ogden Oysters opened just days after the oyster season began in mid-October.

Stocked with oysters, blue crabs, top neck, little neck and other varieties of clams, Pettigrew said, "We hope to expand to full seafood by the spring."

The owners are also considering a shellfish lease purchased from the state, which allows the extension of a year-round shellfishing season that otherwise ends the last day of March.

Transitioning from fisherman to businessman, Pettigrew said, is a learning experience.

Pettigrew still gets his hands muddy with his fair share of time out on the water. When Hall isn’t on the boat, Pettigrew takes it out with his own crew.

Taking over a place where Nixon’s loyal patrons still frequent, Pettigrew said he’s had to win over many.

"He had such a following," Pettigrew said of Nixon, "and was such an icon in this town that it really is a privilege to be able to keep that going."

Because of Mr. Nixon’s legacy, Pettigrew said not much has changed about the place itself.

"We haven’t changed a thing except for the paint," he said. "We’ve got the same oysters that Mr. Nixon always had from the same oystermen, the same quality of service and we really enjoy it."

Pettigrew and Hall may not be Nixon, but they are oystermen who hope one day to earn the merit of their building’s former owner.

Oysters are available on a first come, first served basis around the holiday season. Any other time of the year patrons may reserve oysters in advance. Ogden Oysters is located at 6955 Market St. Hours of operation are Tuesday through Thursday from noon to 6 p.m., Friday from noon to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. In addition to the location, Ogden Oysters has kept Nixon’s phone number, (910) 791-5066.

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