Sea Change

After 150 years, Maggioni Oyster Co. begins a stylish second act.

IF YOU’VE ORDERED OYSTERS — whether raw, grilled, steamed, roasted, blackened, stewed or fried — at a Lowcountry establishment or attended a Southern backyard oyster roast, chances are they were supplied by Maggioni Oyster Co., which celebrates its 150th anniversary this May. The company’s backstory is delicious, too. Maggioni Oyster Co. has been in the same family for five generations and is the area’s largest provider of wild oysters, sustainably harvested from the clean, salty rivers of the Lowcountry. 

In 1870, Luigi Paoli Maggioni immigrated from Genoa, Italy, and founded L.P. Maggioni and Co. Inc. on Isle of Hope. Thirteen years later, the Maggionis opened an oyster factory on Daufuskie Island, and then a cannery in Beaufort, South Carolina Business boomed during the mid-1900s, and operations —all headquartered in Savannah — expanded to 15 canneries in three states employing more than 2,500 people. 

The company went back to focusing solely on oysters in the 1980s, and a decade later it transformed yet again, this time from a canning business into the Southern region’s largest wholesale oyster supplier. 

“It’s very exciting to be part of a family and a company that had such a huge impact on the local history, economic stability and livelihood of generations of families,” says Angela Beasley (née Maggioni), whose late husband, Roddy, took over the company in 1986 and whose son, Jeff, is the current owner. 

Perhaps the company’s longevity owes to its ability to change with the times and take a chance on new endeavors. Beasley notes that Maggioni was an early adopter of innovations in the fishing and canning business, from sailing vessels to diesel engines. 

It should come as no surprise, then, that yet another evolution is on deck: home decor. Maggioni Trading preserves the art and history of Maggioni Oyster Co.’s vintage product labels, emblazoning them on coffee mugs, tote bags, decorative pillows, beach towels and wall art. Beasley and her brothers Maggioni — Joe, Vincent, Ralph and Phillip — recently discovered more than 150 original product label designs, along with their copyright papers, stored in wax-lined boxes in a backyard tool shed. 

“Many of these original labels had not seen the light of day in more than 100 years,” Beasley says. 

Ralph Maggioni shared some of the label designs with Live Oak Restaurant Group, who reproduced them on canvases, framed them and hung them throughout their eating establishments, including Fiddler’s Crab House & Oyster Bar. 

Next, author Beverly Jennings approached the siblings, asking for historical items for the Port Royal Sound Foundation Maritime Center on Lemon Island, South Carolina, as well as for an upcoming book on shrimping history and recipes. The Daufuskie Island Museum and the Beaufort Historical Society have requested artifacts from the Maggioni family business as well. 

“It has been really cool to get together as a family for something other than holidays,” Beasley says of working with her brothers. “It’s a very special project.” 

Maggioni Trading home decor can be purchased at maggionitrading.com. A portion of all proceeds are donated to local coastal conservation groups helping to preserve the coastal lifestyle for generations to come. 

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