Here at CP HQ, we’re always curious about the thought process that goes into naming a restaurant or food venue. So it was with the latest project from restaurateur Michael Shemtov’s. This week Shemtov announced his new Upper King food hall which he’s opening in 2017 with development partners Raven Cliff Company, LLC. The name of the space it’s going into? Pacific Box & Crate. Sounds simple enough, but it turns out Pacific Box & Crate has historical ties to a package store, a fertilizer company, and spontaneously combusting shrimp. 

Michael L. Wooddy of Raven Cliff Company says, “’Box & Crate’ was just catchy and comes from Dixie Box & Crate, the most recent industrial user of the property which occupied the space from 1997 to 2005. ‘Pacific’ is a nod to the first documented historical use of the property, when it was owned by Pacific Guano Company. In a nice mash up, we’re calling the project ‘Pacific Box & Crate.’ The name is historically meaningful to the property, and invokes the industrial grittiness that we and our future office and retail tenants want to retain.” 

Incidentally, Pacific Guano Company was exactly what you’d think — a sea fowl excrement business. According to the Woods Hole Museum in Mass., the Pacific Guano Company began in 1863 when the Boston shipping firm of Glidden and Williams discovered guano made a great fertilizer. 

By 1867, the guano at the Howland Islands had been mined out. The company then claimed the Greater Swan Islands in the eastern Caribbean off Honduras as its source of  guano. It also brought guano from nearby Navassa Island.

In that same year, beds of “rock phosphate,” a fertilizer additive, were discovered in South Carolina. The Pacific Guano men changed their equipment and formulas, bought Chisholm Island in South Carolina, and built a rock phosphate crushing plant on the island. Sulfuric acid was necessary to make the rock phosphate soluble in water, so a separate building for the production of the acid was built in Woods Hole. In 1869, the company built a second factory in Charleston, S.C. The company prospered, often showing profits of 20% a year. In 1879, it had a production of 36,000 tons of fertilizer.

Phosphate mining experienced a 20 year boom in the Lowcountry, and its historical impact is still evident — Ashley Phosphate Road anyone? That said, the phosphate era is not always remembered fondly; in fact, the environmental impact is still being felt today. As recently as 1992, the Post & Courier reported on an incident in which shrimp spontaneously caught on fire due to phosphorous contamination. According to the article, the site where the “spontaneously combusting shrimp were caught … was near one of nine former phosphate fertilizer factories.”

All of that aside, the developers say the name will simply be a nod to those who previously worked there. 

Raven Cliff’s Stephen Zoukis says, “The underlying decision to name the project after former industrial users is an intention to honor the hard, strong men and women who built our country, some of whom worked the Neck’s fertilizer mills and other industries.” 

There ya have it. But we at least hope they’ll consider our tagline: Pacific Box & Crate — It’s the shit.

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