Long Beach Island — Looking for a great gift for the bayman in your life? Look no farther than the Clam Diggers Gift Shop. ReClam the Bay, a nonprofit dedicated to restocking Barnegat Bay with nursery-raised shellfish and at the same time providing environmental education, has come up with a terrific fundraiser.
ReClam President Rick Bushnell has solicited the help of marketing maven Gene Monahan to develop a product line. Monahan, now retired in Loveladies, was the marketing and advertising expert who developed the first in-air catalog for TWA airlines. Bushnell met him when their wives introduced them over a game of bridge. Now Monahan has put his direct marketing skills to volunteering to develop the first line of products to sell that will benefit ReClam.
Eating shellfish is one of the pleasures of living on or visiting Long Beach Island, and Monahan is a devotee. His choice for the gift catalog, then, centered on a great suite of knives for releasing the succulent fare from its shell.
“These are handmade knives by the R. Murphy Company of Massachusetts that has been making shellfish knives for over 150 years. It was recently acquired by Dexter Russell. The blade is a special patented steel that is guarded by the company, and the blade is riveted through the African rosewood handles – beautiful craftsmanship.”
On the other hand, there are knives made with the same patented steel, hand-forged blades that have an ergonomic, molded-plastic handle. The handles have been made from reclaimed plastic harvested from the ocean. “This takes recycling to the nth degree,” said Monahan. “The plastic is taken from the ocean to make the knife that opens the shellfish, and the shells go back in the bay to make oyster reefs.”
The knives have different points depending on what type of shellfish you desire to eviscerate. The blunt point is for clams; the sharp point is for getting in the hinge of the recalcitrant oyster.
“Murphy has a knife shucking contest every year,” said Monahan. “The 2018 shucking record is 25 oysters in 1 minute, 30 seconds. The global contest is held in Ireland.”
Monahan then chose a product for the catalog that every oyster shucker needs: the Kraken Oyster Grip. It’s a handmade device made of locally sourced maple wood from Maine. The device looks a bit like an open oyster itself; it’s made to hook onto a table so the shucker can place the oyster in the well and then pry it open with the Murphy knife and without putting the shuckers’ hands in danger.
“You know, the French love oysters, and particularly around Christmastime every household must have them. Statistically 66 percent of French folk eat them. Last year, hundreds, 2,200 people, went to the hospital from stabbing themselves with oyster knives,” said Monahan.
By extrapolation, had they had the Oyster Grip, this carnage could have been prevented.
Monahan suggests a gourmet gift package of the Murphy oyster knife and the Kraken Oyster Grip could be the Christmas/Hanukkah/birthday gift of a lifetime. The price per knife is $37, not cheap, but the knives are guaranteed to last a couple of lifetimes and even be passed down through the family. “These are like tickets to a Giants game: Everybody wants them,” he said.
OK, the knives are the star, but there are more items to choose from in the Clam Diggers Gift Shop. Lobster shears make the challenge of crustacean eating mere child’s play. “You just snip down and get the meat out of the claws – no need for picks and shovels,” Monahan joked.
Scissors that are made especially to cut herbs are something a gourmet cook will appreciate.
A unique gift for someone who has trouble holding a hand of cards, say for bridge or poker, is the playing card holder made in the USA of fine grained wood.
Then there are the 19-ounce, craft brew glasses made of Tritan, a mixture of glass and plastic that is PBA-free.
“A set of two of these is the ultimate beer drinker’s gift. You know, oysters filter water, 50 gallons a day, and humans filter beer. We have that on a T-shirt.”
And you can find ReClam the Bay shirts, sweats and hats online, too.
“The point is,” said Bushnell, “any profit goes to put more clam and oyster spat in the bay and to educate the people about it.”
ReClam the Bay will have a booth at the Chowderfest Merchants Mart in Beach Haven on Saturday and will have the gear available. The gift catalog of unique coastal gifts will be available shortly online at reclamthebay.org/store.
— Pat Johnson