Aw Shucks! Burleigh Brothers Seafood has been in operation for 89 years

Posted on August 04, 2023 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments


William Burleigh loading barrels of oysters onboard a sailing ship in the early 1900s (photo credit: Burleigh Brothers Seafood)


Harvesting oysters known as some of the world’s finest, Burleigh Brothers Seafood has been in operation for almost a century. What started with a unique investment opportunity has grown into a wholesale seafood business with international reach. Now under fourth-generation ownership, the family-owned enterprise is focused on continuing to expand across the globe.

A unique opportunity 

The beginning of Burleigh Brothers Seafood dates back to 1912 when William Burleigh purchased a deed for a water lot in East Bideford, P.E.I. While these lots are typically leased from the government, due to a Crown grant this particular piece of land was owned by politician William Pope. So, when the unique opportunity presented itself, Burleigh made the investment.

At the time, Burleigh was heavily involved in the fox trade, but as fur faded during the Great Depression, he moved on to harvesting oysters. It wasn’t until 1934 when his nephews Lorne and Burton Burleigh inherited the family lot that Burleigh Brothers Seafood was officially established.

In the early days, the Burleigh family exclusively sold Malpeque Oysters, which have had a worldwide reputation since the early 1900s after being judged the tastiest oysters at the Paris Exhibition. In honour of its founder, Burleigh Brothers Seafood called its product Uncle Willy’s Malpeque Oysters.


Fishing for oysters in the early days of the business (photo credit: Burleigh Brothers Seafood)


Growing the business

In 1959, Rogers Burleigh took over the family business and led the organization through significant growth. He created the business’ first processing plant at the Bideford Wharf and moved operations to East Bideford in the ‘70s.

Rogers was also responsible for establishing Burleigh Brothers Seafood’s wholesaling operations. Rather than harvesting all oysters themselves, the Burleigh family started buying products from local wild fishers. Relationships were established with wholesale customers in Montreal and Toronto and later (in the ‘80s or ‘90s) business expanded to New York and Boston.


Current owner, Troy Burleigh (left) and employee Manny Marche (right), each with a box of oysters (Burleigh Brothers Seafood)


A new generation

In 2003, fourth-generation owners Troy and Geoffery Burleigh inherited the business from their father Rogers. Since then, the Burleigh Brothers’ product line has expanded to include soft and hard shell clams.

According to Thomas Burleigh, general manager, about 20 per cent of sales for their oysters and clams are to restaurants. The vast majority are sold to wholesalers, however, the business does also sell directly to customers who stop by their facilities. Burleigh Brothers also launched online sales in 2022 as a pilot program and Thomas says they are currently working on refreshing their website to get this back up and running.


A box of Uncle Willy’s Malpeque Oysters (photo credit: Burleigh Brothers Seafood)


New markets

Today, operations continue for Burleigh Brothers Seafood at their plant in East Bideford, P.E.I., with Troy Burleigh managing operations.

Thomas, who represents the fifth working generation, says he hopes to take over the business someday. For now, Burleigh Brothers remains focused on expanding to new markets across Canada, the U.S. and beyond.

With some final thoughts, Thomas says: “A big thing for us is that we continue to purchase products from wild fishers in the area to support the local community and a sustainable fishery for the next generation.”


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