As the latest addition to the restaurant line of the Rappahannock Oyster Company, the bivalve purveyors are opening a bar, restaurant, and market focused on fresh seafood in Charleston, South Carolina.
Brothers Ryan and Travis Croxton revived their grandfather’s oyster business in 2001, and have increased the harvest amounts of mid-Atlantic oysters through aquaculture and resurrected the region’s reputation through partnerships with chefs, restaurants, and distribution around the world. In 2011, the brothers decided to take the business a step further by launching restaurants that showcase their Chesapeake oysters as well as other like-minded food producers.
Travis and Ryan say they never intended to open a location in Charleston as they are aware of the city’s great seafood reputation and have relationships with many restaurants and chefs, but after being invited down to check out space in the city’s renovated Cigar Factory, they say the building fit in perfectly with the oyster company’s history that dates back to the 1890s.
The five-story Cigar Factory, located on East Bay Street and constructed in 1881, was purchased in 2014 and now houses office, retail, and culinary tenants including the gourmet food emporium Mercantile and Mash.
The Croxton’s Charleston restaurant and bar is much larger than Rappahannock Oyster Bar in Washington, D.C., or the restaurants in Virginia. Coming in at about 4,600 square feet with the ability to seat 152 patrons, the Cigar Factory location contains an adjoining market and a patio that seats 46.
“The idea [for the market] is to sell stuff that we’re getting for our kitchen,” Ryan Croxton says, adding that the chefs and market customers will have access to the same product daily, and it won’t be heavily marked up. “This gives an outlet for the public to access wholesale goods.”
Rappahannock has a similar market called Rapp Session—connected with its Richmond, Virginia, restaurant—that puts an emphasis on oysters, small plates, and a bar program.
Kevin Kelley, former executive chef of the Washington, D.C., location, serves as the executive chef in Charleston, putting a global spin on seasonal dishes (including nonseafood items) and focusing heavily on local breweries and distilleries in the cocktail program.
And while some may think the brothers opening up restaurants in towns where many chefs use their products could be seen as competition, the brothers say they have actually experienced an opposite effect. Sales have increased in markets like D.C., where Rappahannock increases its community visibility and can offer extra services and goods to its clients, while also using the supply chains of its restaurants to introduce new products, such as South Carolina white shrimp.