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Everyday, but Christmas 

Say hello to Speckles the pelican

click to enlarge PERSONALITY :  Carol (left) and Ashley Johnson, mother and daughter, always genuinely smile, say customers of their family business, BJ’s Live Seafood, an area favorite on the pier at Port San Luis. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PERSONALITY : Carol (left) and Ashley Johnson, mother and daughter, always genuinely smile, say customers of their family business, BJ’s Live Seafood, an area favorite on the pier at Port San Luis.
Come rain or shine BJ’s Live Seafood is open for business every day from
6 a.m. until 9 p.m., except Christmas (and half-days on Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving). It’s staffed by BJ Johnson, his wife Carol, their daughter, and their two sons.


The selection at their retail stand on the pier at Port San Luis includes fresh cod, halibut, snails, clams, lobsters, shrimps, scallops, octopus, albacore, thresher shark, and swordfish, but they are renowned for their oysters. They also have a booth at the Avila Farmers Market every Friday night during the season, where they sell crab and shrimp cocktails in addition to fresh fish. Much of their fare is supplied by area anglers.


“We pride ourselves on promoting as much local stuff as we can,” says BJ Johnson, who’s long been influential in the local fishing industry. BJ worked as a commercial fisherman for almost 25 years. He was the president of the Port San Luis Commercial Fishermen’s Association for eight years and is the vice president of the Avila Business Association, which runs the Avila Fish and Farmers Market.


In the summer of 2008, Jeremy, the elder son, who had just graduated from high school, was suddenly taken ill by a rare disease. After his seven-week stay in the intensive care unit at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco, he  spent a year on blood thinners and antibiotics and is nearly recovered.


Throughout that trying period the Johnson family business never faltered. “It was absolutely devastating,” said Johnson. “I promised I wouldn’t relax until he was out of ICU.”  By swapping between both locations, Avila and San Francisco, Carol and BJ were able to be by their son’s side every moment while running the business.


The stand has been praised by food critics in such publications as Sunset Magazine and Road & Travel Magazine. Thanks to their impeccable fish, crustaceans, and bivalves, the devoted staff has prospered for a quarter century. But rising prices of fresh seafood, on top of the poor economy, have diminished sales by 50 to 75 percent. “Ten thousand people can walk down the pier on a weekend and 9,900 will walk off with nothing in hand. In this economy we just got to start learning how to live on love,” commented BJ Johnson. 


BJ’s Live Seafood is located about half way down Harford Pier at Port San Luis in Avila and they can be contacted at 680-5143. When you’re there be sure to see their friendly resident pelican, Speckles.


Fast facts


On Saturday, Aug. 29, the San Luis Obispo County Animal Services will host a Kittenpalooza on the lawn of the SLO County shelter at 885 Oklahoma Ave. in SLO from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Compared to last summer, Animal Services has experienced an increase of 37 percent in the number of animals coming into the shelter. These stray or abandoned kittens, and many other homeless companion animals, will be available for adoption for a fee of $70, which includes spaying or neutering and all basic vaccinations. Animal Services can be reached at 781-4400.


People Helping People—a referral and food service for seniors and community members in need of assistance—will join other nonprofits in staffing information tables at an open house hosted by the South Bay Community Center, at 2180 Palisades in Los Osos, on Sunday, Aug. 30 from noon to 4 p.m. There will be a free barbecue and refreshments. Info: 528-1912.


CodePink: Women for Peace will conduct a visual enactment of the U.S. federal budget near the pier at Cayucos Beach on Sunday, Aug. 30 around 2 p.m. Using the “flash mob” approach, 100 CodePink members will demonstrate where U.S. tax dollars are spent, and then transform the federal budget toward such life-affirming policies as renewable energy, education, health care for all, and public infrastructure. Contact Dawn Legg, 748-0827, or Dian Sousa, 235-2064, for more information.


Intern Marin Kautz wrote Strokes&Plugs this week. Send your business and nonprofit news to


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