Blueprint for the Great American Dream

September 6th, 2017

prestige oyster Blueprint for the Great American Dream

Lisa and Raz Halili of Prestige Oysters.

The story of Prestige Oysters

By K. Pica Kahn

halilis Blueprint for the Great American Dream

Johnny and Lisa Halili.

It is a love story,  and a story of the American dream. Johnny Halili, a little boy in Albania, never dreamed he would be an oyster mogul in the U.S. In the 1970s, coming from his home country to Chicago, he began his American work life in a car wash. Drifting from job to job, he heard from his cousin that there was work in Louisiana; so off he went.

Working on a boat for the first time, he was a deckhand and worked very hard for years. Eventually he bought his own oyster boat, the Lady Katherine, and that is when his successful American dream life began.

Prestige Oysters is a private family run business which continues with his best deckhand Lisa, who later became the love of his life and his wife. Working through all kinds of weather, they never gave up their dreams. The couple are now joined by their son Raz in this family owned and run business. The company has two full-time processing plants providing market for over 100 boats from Texas to Louisiana and Maryland.

The family was able to increase their business with the acquisition of the Quintus 350L high-pressure processing machine and CryoQuick tunnel to process oysters. In 2013, the company acquired Joey’s Oyster Company’s state of the art facility with HPP technology in Amite, Louisiana.

Rescue Bae

Raz Halili took to the flooded streets after Harvey to rescue people and animals alike. He has gained national attention after one of his rescue photos went viral. He has been affectionally dubbed ‘Rescue Bae.’

“HPP is one of the most clean and advanced food processing technologies. It is the size of a small room,” said Raz. “It does 1,200 oysters at a time in high pressure. We buy from other people, and we have our own boats. We also buy from independent contractors from South Texas up to Maryland. Oysters are a very popular appetizer. They are a delicacy – a romance between ocean and man ”

The High-Pressure process is a food processing method using water and elevated pressures to achieve consumer desired goals.  In 1990s, HPP emerged as a method of processing food, but not until the 21st century was it applied to seafood.

The advancements in HPP technology over recent decades have proved this method of food processing is of the highest quality. From fresh juice to meats and seafood, HPP neutralizes listeria, salmonella, E. coli and other deadly bacteria. Their Treasure Band oysters have undergone our High Pressure Process which reduces the Vibrio Vulnificus and Vibrio Paraheamolyticus to non-detectable levels.

The idea for the purchase of the multi million dollar machine was that of the father, according to Raz.

“He really saw the value in it, and so we bought one, and it has been a great asset for us.”

According to his mother Lisa, Raz took the business to a new level, when he approached the giant Sysco Foods.

“He was just this kid with an idea, and he made it happen,” said the proud mom. “We would have never even thought of it, but after college he came on the sales side of the business and this was his venture, and he took a chance and did it for us. It made all the difference. We are very proud of him. We were just simple wholesalers, and he took us to a whole new level.

Like his father before him, the son now 31, had a vision of where he wanted to take the company.  After pitching the idea to the seafood director at the time, he felt confident this was a program with a story behind it that could sell.

“We were able to supply a year-round supply of oysters at a competitive price, and we are the first ones to have a corporate level oyster program at Sysco,” said Raz. “It was a multimillion dollar investment, but we always want to change, grow and push our company to greater highest.”

Although the idea and the execution was the son’s idea, he says he learned so much from his father, from whom he got his work ethic.

“He taught me the meaning of hard work and dedication, always preaching to never take anything for granted, to help others and stay loyal to the ones who have helped you along the way. My family and I have a great appreciation of living in a free country, where you can fulfill your wildest dreams. Enjoy working hard and it will pay off.”

GCM’s Women of the Bay

May 4th, 2015

shellydixon GCMs Women of the Bay


What’s your profession?

I build custom fishing rods. Fifteen years ago, I started Anglers Euphoria Custom Rods for Reel Fishing Women.

Tell us about your rods.

Our rods are unique and different from the others out on the market. We build them all; from little bait casters to spinning rods and offshore rods as well. As we build a rod we send pictures of our progress along to the customers. My husband Adam Dixon, and my daughter, Ashley Downs who is 13, also help me with building the rods. They both have been a huge support in our making the business successful.

What’s your first fishing memory?

I remember my father taking me to the Texas City dike as a child and I fell in love with the sport. The very first fish I caught was a bull red and it was a beauty. My father passed away in February of 2015. His memory lives on in every fish I catch.

Land based shark fishing; what’s that all about?

My family and I enjoy the sport of land based shark fishing. In land based shark fishing you leave the rod and reel on the beach, hop in a kayak and paddle out over 100 yards to drop bait. We use 25 ft. leaders made by Alberto Zertuche with Hard Life Tackle to catch the big sharks. We release all sharks and other fish unharmed.

What’s next for you in your career?

With the support of family and friends I’m living my dreams. Building custom rods takes time but also leaves a lasting impression and a positive impact on everybody involved. You can visit our Facebook group Shark ON and our website for more information about all of our rods.

lisahalili GCMs Women of the BayLISA HALILI

What is your profession? 

I am Vice President and Administrator for Halili Management Services, LLC.  I manage Prestige Oysters, INC and our other corporations. I oversee the day to day operations of all our companies.

What inspired you to choose the profession you are in? 

I have always loved being on and around the water.

How long have you lived in the Bay Area?  

35 years

What do you like to do most when you are not working? 

I love hands on work and love to be outdoors. Unfortunately, most of the time, I am behind a desk.

What is something people may not know about you?  

I love hard work. I love to work on the boat. If I had my choice, I would go back to being my husband’s deckhand on the back of a shrimp boat. That was really living; I just did not know how good we had it back then.

Also, for over a year, I have been leading a movement to protect the oyster industry from a group called STORM, LLC. The STORM organization is trying to pass a bill in the state legislature that would allow them to confiscate half of the public oyster reefs in Galveston Bay. Along with the help of other interested parties and legislators, I am fighting to keep the bill from passing.

I love and live by the following quote from William Faulkner: ”Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.”

kimhardingremaxKIMBERLY HARDING

What is your profession?

I am a real estate broker and owner of RE/MAX Synergy in League City. I enjoy the hands on experience of listening to the needs of the clients I represent so I can find them the home they are looking for and guide them through the home buying and selling process.

Tell us about your hobby of fishing in tournaments.

I am honored to be a part of a women’s fishing group for almost 5 years now. We travel to South Padre Island and Galveston for bay fishing tournaments and we go to Pensacola, Florida for the Ladies’ Offshore Bill Fishing Tournament. My fishing team is a sisterhood that creates a bond far beyond a regular friendship.

How long have you lived in the Bay Area?

I have lived in the Bay Area all my life. I was born and raised in Galveston County and am proud of it! I’ve been married to my husband, Beau for 24 years and we have raised our 21 year old twin sons here as well.

What do you like to do most when you are not working?

I love to fish and also hunt. I bow hunt and rifle hunt when I have the time.  I love the outdoors and I am a tom-boy when not showing properties in my 4 inch stilettos!

What is something people may not know about you?

That my first job was at a Chief Auto Parts store and I knew how to change the oil in my car when I was 16 years old.

shannonbushSHANNON BUSH

Ten years ago did you see yourself racing in one of the most competitive one design classes in the world and doing well?

Yes, actually, that’s why I chose this fleet. When I lost my Soling to a hurricane, I had a choice of any boat I wanted to get in to. I had seen the Etchells on Galveston Bay and loved their graceful lines. I noticed who was sailing them and wanted to compete against a bigger, deeper fleet full of past World Champions, All-Americans, sail makers and boat builders.

Are you a Danica or is there a sisterhood of hotshot sailing women like yourself?

At most of these major events, there may be two women drivers, sometimes three, but that’s pretty rare. Usually, it is just one. At the Worlds in San Diego four years ago, there were three; in Italy two years ago, I was the only female driver; in Newport last year, there were three. But I don’t see myself as a female driver, I see myself as a driver.

How much practice time do you put in before a major regatta?

For a two day weekend regatta, we arrive for three days of practice.

What do you like to do for fun when you’re not racing?

I spend time with my awesome family. They have been incredibly supportive and understanding of my sailing interest. To that, when I’m not racing, the time we spend together is not about me, but about them. We travel when we can, make the vacations fun, usually going someplace they want to go, doing things they want to do. In the meantime my kids go to school out of state and there is quite a bit of travel to see them at their schools, or in cities close to their schools. Our daughter is at Ole Miss in Oxford MS, a really fun place to visit, and our son is a short train ride from NYC. I enjoy just hanging out with my kids; having them around is never a dull moment. We don’t sail as a family and I don’t push it. If they want to sail, they will on their terms, in their own time.