The Shell Shop Inc. has been owned and operated by the Thomas family since 1955. Laurence Thomas was an abalone diver and commercial fisherman. His 10 year old son, David Thomas, wanted to sell his father's shells in a 'lemonade style' stand, and successfully earned over $100 that summer selling the abalone shells for .10 cents each. These shells were the natural byproduct of the commercial fishing industry, making The Shell Shop one of the pioneer ‘green’ businesses that focused on reusing what was discarded by others. Soon after, the Thomas family started importing shells as well as selling the abalone shells for which Morro Bay was famous.
The Shell Shop has now imported from over twenty different countries and has one of the largest selections of sea shells on the West Coast. The Shell Shop has kept to its roots as a green business - the commercial shells that we sell today are still a byproduct of the fishing industry. Many coastal communities overseas in places like The Philippines, Vietnam, India, and Japan highly rely on their fishing industry to sustain their large populations. Many coastal countries are not able to rely on corn as their main food source, as we do in America. When living in a healthy environment most mollusks reproduce quickly and in abundance. Seashells being sold as a byproduct of the fishing industry is a green business: these shelled animals that are fished, harvested, or grown in aquaculture will be used to feed our global population. In other words, regardless of whether the empty shells are utilized or not, they will continue to be harvested for consumption. The use of shells as a byproduct gives struggling fishermen another source of revenue and allows us to enjoy the beauty of the ocean without unnecessary carbon footprint.
Having been in business so long there have been many changes in environmental standards that we are happy to comply with; the health of our oceans is a critical component of our business! For instance, when the exportation of coral from the Philippines was banned, the Philippines allowed a onetime permit to export what coral was already harvested and on land. At that time we purchased many containers of this already harvested coral. We are still selling this coral today and open new supply cartons of it regularly. The coral you purchase from The Shell Shop today will be restocked from our abundant supply of coral that was harvested over 30 years ago- all the coral we have is already harvested and we do not import any newly harvested coral. Over the more than 60 years that The Shell Shop has been in business we have ALWAYS strictly followed both US and international import protocol. All documentation from the country of origin and necessary permits are accurately submitted to US Fish and Wildlife and US Customs during our import process. We donate to various organizations to help protect our oceans and its inhabitants.
The Shell Shop has become an icon of Morro Bay over the years, with numerous families and individuals who consider The Shell Shop a necessary stop whenever visiting the Central Coast. We hope you enjoy the shop as your imagination lets you explore the depths of the global seas while you are here in lovely Morro Bay.