Lake Macquarie locals who love their oysters know that Dawson’s Oyster Supplies have been a tradition in the Lake Macquarie area since 1964 when it was first established by the original owners, the Dawson family. The Dawson’s supplied local restaurants with fresh oysters and in 1980 opened their retail outlet in Warners Bay to sell direct to the consumer. Fast forward almost 40 years and this much-loved local family business at 67 King St, Warners Bay has had a total refresh with new owners, new branding and a shop fit out.
The new owners, Hannah Woods, Thelma Williams and Louise Murphy, purchased the business from the Dawson family in May 2021, right in the middle of the COVID pandemic. Hannah, Thelma and Lou all have backgrounds in Commercial Marine Insurance, working alongside commercial fishermen in New South Wales and Queensland.
“I discovered the business was for sale by accident,” said Hannah. “I was at work one day and did a search for local businesses for sale, (kind of like when you look up real-estate for sale just to see what’s out there!). I stumbled across a local oyster business for sale and knew of only one in the area – Dawson’s. We were local customers of Dawson’s for years and saw an opportunity to refresh and grow a small local business that we loved.”
The COVID Effect
Very soon after the new owners took possession of the business, there was a Newcastle/Hunter wide lockdown, and in August 2021, many of the restaurants that Dawson’s supplied were closed down or had to reduce trade, removing 70% of business. Like many other business owners, Hannah and her team had to pivot to find new ways to generate sales. Dawson’s started doing home deliveries six days per week to the Lake Macquarie and Newcastle areas and it proved extremely popular, softening the blow of the COVID effect.
Retail Store Refresh
Taking advantage of the slower months, the team closed their doors for one week in October 2021 to renovate. The old, chequered lino flooring had been in place since the doors opened in 1980! Family and friends got together and re-did the floors, refreshed the interior walls, added new lighting and painted inside and out. This labour of love has resulted in a fresh new space that is welcoming, clean and uncluttered and appreciated by both the regular customers and the staff.
Always a family business, the team at Dawson’s Oysters still includes some of the Dawson family. Twin sons of Malcolm Dawson, the original owner, Brett and Grant, still work at the business daily, opening oysters, along with Brett’s wife Karren and their son Jack. Karren does deliveries to venues and Jack opens oysters just like his dad. Hannah’s own brother, Lachlan works alongside her as well as three part-time staff, Jade, Terook and Morgan.
A Fresh New Brand
A refresh of the business would not be complete without considering marketing and branding. A new logo was designed by local company, Design Bug. The logo is a fresh take on traditional and contemporary, utilising a mix of modern typefaces subtly altered to give a more established flavour. The word Dawson’s has been made the focal point of the logo, highlighting the long history of being a family-owned business and reflecting family values. The colours of navy and gold represent trust and quality. The new brand has been rolled out across a new website which is still a work in progress and features on all new social media.
Not content with simply looking fabulous, the team also introduced some new product lines to complement existing fresh seafood offerings. The new products include a range of condiments, sauces, vinaigrettes, books, gifts, fresh mussels, sardines, smoked trout and even prawn gyozas.
If you haven’t been down to Dawson’s lately, it’s time you popped in for a visit. Located at 67 King Street Warners Bay, the team are always ready with a smiling face and the freshest seafood on the Lake.