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Interviewee: Blake Sunseri

Role: Owner of P & J Oyster Company, New Orleans, LA

Date of Interview: 11/01/11 and 11/08/11

Collection: Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster Oral History Project

Click on the link below to play the audio clip from the interviewee.

Abstract: Blake Sunseri is a fifth-generation co-owner of P & J Oyster Co., Inc., an oyster processing plant located for five generations in the heart of the French Quarter in New Orleans, on a city street. He describes the beginning of the workday at P & J, as the oyster shuckers use their hammers at five o'clock in the morning, processing oysters caught a couple of hours earlier from Louisiana's oyster reefs.

Transcript:

I really miss the whole atmosphere of the shop. The way it is now, it's funny. I wouldn't describe it as morbid as a skeleton of a business, but it's definitely not – the soul is different. The soul of the company is very different. Well, it'll really take you in. It's really amazing, especially because it's on a busy city street where you don't see much processing done in New Orleans like it was done here at P&J. We're right at the mouth of the Vieux Carre [Old Quarter, French Quarter], which is kind of like the gateway of the French Quarter, per se. And as we'd pull up in the morning, it would be very quiet. It's early morning, we start here. The shuckers would get in maybe two hours after we started the day. And you'd start hearing the forklift back up, and pull around, and empty the sacks out. And you'd hear them kind of like fall like rocks onto a table, or onto the ground, onto a concrete slab. And the shuckers would start chipping away with their hammers, and it would just be a clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack. And you'd just hear that all day long, and you could walk by and hear it going on, if you were just an onlooker. And people would sometimes stop and kind of marvel at what's going on in here because there's not really much activity at five in the morning, so we were kind of the only ones around that were kind of giving the day a start. You know? We'd kind of start the day for New Orleans, in a manner of speaking. And it was really a pride kind of thing. It was really something to take in and appreciate. It was – I'm not sure if I can explain it any better than that. (Blake is pictured with his Dad, Al Sunseri).

To listen to Blake's interview, click here.