Shellfish Venture in Souris

Entrepreneur Johnny Flynn juggles multiple businesses and roles

“Keep it simple. Stay calm. Specialization is for insects.” These are all words to live by for PEI shellfish producer and retailer Johnny Flynn. Even under the challenge of running more than one business, and filling multiple roles within those operations, it is apparent that he knows how to enjoy every minute of his busy life cultivating, fishing, and selling some of the Island’s best lobster and oysters.

Unlike many local lobster fishers, Flynn did not follow generations of seafood harvesters. He left a job with the Coast Guard around 1986 and investigated other opportunities, trying out the fishing life and researching the potential of aquaculture in his home area near Souris. Like many Island fishing families however, Flynn has been quick to involve several family members in his current enterprise, including two brothers, two nephews, a son, and a daughter, who all help out in a variety of positions. Like the man said “specialization is for insects” and Flynn is proud to say that his team can step in to assist in any part of the business which is, indeed, varied. In Flynn’s world his team should be able to repair a lobster trap, set up an oyster cage, shuck oysters, shell lobsters, create a delicious lobster roll, run a cash register, measure a lobster carapace, and smile at customers, to list just a few needed skills.

Summer employees Jacob Outhouse, Karine Marcel, Sarah Flynn Photo credit: Carol Horne

Flynn’s great curiosity and willingness to ask questions led him to test out the nascent Island business of oyster aquaculture. The research proved to be solid and oyster cultivation on PEI has been on a steady upward trend for a couple of decades. But Flynn also attributes some of his success to pure luck, “Our Colville Bay area turns out to be pretty much perfect for oyster growing, and our decision to go to market under the Colville Bay brand proved timely, as people started looking for boutique oyster experiences.” Now “Canada’s best oyster” according to some, is available in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver, and of course, select locations on PEI.

Probably the best place to pick up a dozen or two, though, is right at Flynn’s Lobster Shack on the Souris Beach Gateway Park. Opened five years ago, the shop is the perfect expression of Flynn’s other mantra to “keep it simple.” With only lobster rolls, lobster in the shell, and shucked oysters on the menu, he has mastered the concept of streamlined product marketing. It is partly due to the success of the Lobster Shack as a busy anchor shop, that the popular seaside boardwalk area has been able to continue to expand each year, with even more improvements planned for 2019. Flynn is justifiably proud of the growth in the Eastern Kings region where several new and diverse businesses have opened in recent years.

Never content to sit still, Johnny Flynn has a new operation to round out his multi-faceted businesses. In 2015 he set up a lobster storage facility at the Souris Harbour that is capable of holding 100,000 pounds of lobster under carefully controlled conditions. This ensures he has enough product to supply his own retail market (which includes several local restaurants and lobster suppers) but can handle the product of other fishers in the region as necessary. Prior to the opening of the Lobster Shack, it was not obvious for visitors where they could procure fresh lobster or oysters–with the combination of the retail shop and the new holding capability, customers are no doubt opting for more frequent feeds of delicious PEI seafood.

About Carol Horne

A Venn diagram of Carol Horne’s life so far in PEI would show multiple intersecting circles centering on food and land. Over her many years as an Island resident she has filled roles as tourism marketer, Department of Agriculture information director, community development manager, planning technician, farm safety coordinator, strawberry grower, landscape protection advocate, lobster marketer, and media relations expert, happily sampling and promoting Island products along the way.

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