Online oyster opening brings fun and a few extra dollars for Northern Arm friends

Every Monday and Thursday night, two women from Northern Arm grab a cup of tea, some oysters, and sit down with a few dozen of their closest friends.

Paulette Pelley and Janice Peyton spend about 25 hours a week on Two Friends Shuckin'

Paulette Pelley, left, and Janice Peyton have turned Pelley's basement in her home in Northern Arm into a online-shopping studio, with props, costumes and cameras. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Every Monday and Thursday night, Paulette Pelley and Janice Peyton grab a cup of tea and some oysters, and sit down with a few dozen of their closest friends.

They talk about their dinners, share recipes, and catch up — their friends in their own homes, and the two women in front of a webcam, laptop, and makeshift studio in Pelley's basement in Northern Arm, near Botwood.

It's just me and Janice hanging out, with all these other people.- Paulette Pelley

Peyton and Pelley make up the two parts of Two Friends Shuckin', one of hundreds of oyster-opening live-stream businesses that have caught fire on Facebook this year.

Their live streams run longer than three hours each, and rack up hundreds of comments, but they say the best part is spending time with their friends.

"We have viewers that don't miss. If they miss, we're wondering where they are and what's wrong," Peyton said.

Pelley opens a pearl in her home in Northern Arm. Peyton pitched the idea of creating a Facebook Live show after she became addicted to watching similar live streams. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

"We don't ask for anything, just come on and watch us, and buy if you want, if you don't it's OK! Just hang around and hang out with us and have a laugh."

Wisecracks draw in fans

On Two Friends Shuckin', customers don't buy pearls, they buy oysters, which Pelley will then open up while live on Facebook revealing the pearl — or maybe even two — inside.

Peyton and Pelley order the oysters from farms in Japan every couple of weeks.

The women are up against tough competition in the pearl-selling online business. There are hundreds of other streamers like them — including some in Newfoundland — but they say their humour and charm make them stand out.

"We're told we're hilarious," Peyton says. "We're always being told, 'you crack me up.'"

Pelley measures a pearl using a digital measure. Two Friends Shuckin' charges $20 for an oyster, and they also sell pendants and chains. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

The women fill the downtime in their hours-long videos with jokes, impressions, accents and cross talk with their Facebook live commenters. Inside the videos, dollars are "doll hairs," and the Dollarama is the "Dalai Lama."

Peyton and Pelley have known each other for 28 years. Two Friends Shuckin' isn't their first business venture; they also worked together making and selling seal-skin purses and accessories.

Sometimes we're like an old married couple.- Janice Peyton

"We met, we kind of clicked, and we've been hanging out, doing crafts, and being silly ever since," Peyton said.

Working with a longtime friend has its challenges, but 28 years of friendship gives you lots of experience to draw on.

"We make each other mad. Sometimes we're like an old married couple, just quacking away at each other, but we usually talk it out. If she's done something to upset me, I'm going to tell her about it, and she'll do the same," said Peyton.

Peyton, right, shakes a hand-clap noise maker during a Facebook Live stream of Two Friends Shuckin' on Nov. 27. The noisemaker is used whenever two pearls are found inside one oyster. (Two Friends Shuckin'/Facebook)

Two Friends Shuckin' has turned into time-consuming work for the pair. Between the ordering, shipping, and preparation — like tracking down the winners of their "share draw" promotions and monthly contest — Pelley estimates she spends somewhere between 20 to 25 hours each week on the venture.

And like many other online publishers, they've even begun dealing with online "trolls" — a sure sign that their videos are spreading.

"They usually start out being silly, and we're ok with silly, but when they start to get nasty and vulgar and that — ain't nobody got time for that," said Peyton.

Extra cash

On a good night, the women will take about a dozen orders, and bring in about $300, through their Facebook stream. Pelley says every penny helps.

"For Janice, this is part of her income that she needs to live," Pelley said.

"For me, my husband works and brings home a good paycheque, so what I make is kind of extra … I've managed to pay off a couple of bills that I probably wouldn't have paid off yet. So it's helping make life a little easier."

The women buy their pearls from farms in Japan, which come in individually packaged oysters. Some are injected with dyes to produce a wider variety of colours. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

The pair have come a long way from their very first live broadcast, on April 10, after Peyton talked Pelley into it.

"My stomach was churning in so many ways, and I was afraid that once I hit that button, that not a word was going to come out," Pelley said. "It was nerve-racking."

Now, the women are much more relaxed.

"It's just me and Janice hanging out, with all these other people," says Pelley. "So it's kinda like a party, and instead of serving drinks and snacks we're opening up oysters to find pearls."

About the Author

Garrett Barry


Garrett Barry is a CBC reporter based in Gander.