Freshly shucked oysters and seafood in a revamped space
If you’ve ever eaten oysters at one of Newcastle’s seafood restaurants, chances are they were supplied by Dawson’s Oysters.
An unwavering part of the local community since 1964, Dawson’s Oysters has recently been taken over by new owners who plan on continuing the reputation that the Dawson family have built over five decades while refreshing and growing the business.
New owners Hannah Woods, her mum Louise Murphy and Louise’s best friend Thelma Williams had always been customers of Dawson’s and couldn’t help but become intrigued when the business went up for sale.
“As big oyster lovers, we’d been customers of Dawson’s for several years, so knew the business well. One day I was searching for businesses for sale and came across an oyster wholesaling business in the area. The listing didn’t say that it was Dawson’s, but I just knew it was,” Hannah said.
Hannah was working in Louise and Thelma’s commercial marine insurance brokerage at the time, but wasn’t loving the desk job life. With ample experience managing restaurants, bars and backpacker hostels, Hannah saw an ideal opportunity for change.
“It all happened very organically. We went through the process and met with the Dawson’s. They were a family like ours, and just genuinely good people. We got a really good feeling from the get-go.”
She’s since revamped Dawson’s retail store at Warners Bay and spruced up the company’s branding. Along with their range of oysters, prawns, fish and other fresh seafood, they’ve started offering their own range of sauces, gourmet butters and flavour bases.
“I had a vision to make it our own and put our own stamp on it but wanted to celebrate the history of the place, because I think that’s one of the most important parts of it. The Dawsons have done an amazing job of building a name in the business that’s stood the test of time,” Hannah said.
Since taking over the business in May 2021, it’s been a “baptism by fire”, to put it in Hannah’s words. Between the pandemic wreaking havoc and QX disease impacting oyster supply from Port Stephens, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing.
But Hannah says Dawson’s has still thrived.
“The community welcomed us well and it’s been a really positive experience so far. We’ve been quite busy and we’ve been able to hire more staff and expand in that respect. There’s been highs and lows, but I think every small business can say the same thing.”
With two-time World Champion oyster shucker Brett Dawson, son of original owner Malcolm Dawson, still part of the team, along with his wife Karren and son Jack, Newcastle’s only oyster processing facility is in good hands.
As for what’s in store for the future, Dawson’s is starting online ordering this year, so you’ll be able to order oysters direct to your door. Hannah also wants to expand the restaurant wholesale side of the business. Her long term goal though?
“I would love to find a little space and open an oyster and wine bar. Whether it be a pop up in an outdoor location over summer, or a more permanent quirky little hole in the wall, I’m always searching for the right space.”
For the oyster sceptics, Hannah recommends starting with oysters mornay or Kilpatrick to ease your way into the oyster flavour. Hannah’s favourite is natural with a squeeze of lemon and some salt and pepper, but she admits this can take some getting used to!
If you haven’t been to Dawson’s Oysters recently, why not pop down and check out their range of fresh, quality seafood. It’s the perfect place to source produce for your next dinner party or even just some oysters to knock back on a sunny afternoon.