Island Creek Oysters’ founder and owner Skip Bennett has spent his entire life in Duxbury (he grew up catching fish and bullfrogs in Island Creek). A passionate clam and mussel harvester, Skip graduated from Merrimack College with a finance degree but quickly realized that he would never feel at home behind a desk. Instead, he went back to the water and tried growing quahog clams in Duxbury Bay. When that didn’t work, he decided to give oysters a try.
Despite some very loud and serious reservations from friends and fellow fishermen, Skip started his search for seed and an education in oyster farming. About the same time, he met Christian Horne, an oyster farmer whose family owned Chance Along Farm in Freeport, Maine. Christian needed a place to grow oysters; Skip needed seed. It quickly became a happy partnership and after many trials and tribulations, they started growing some damn fine oysters. Soon after, friends like Don Merry and Skip’s father, Bill Bennett, joined the party.
Skip now oversees the largest producing farm and crew at Island Creek and is the owner of the distribution arm, Island Creek Oysters, Inc. Despite his many attempts to stay out of an office, he does a great job shifting back and forth between the world of the boots and the land of the suits (don’t worry: he’s still on the water every day). He has two daughters who share his passion for the water and spend most of their summer days on the bay with their dad.
Christian grew up growing oysters with his family in Freeport, Maine (oyster lovers may be familiar with his family’s farm, Chance Along Farm). His first meeting with Skip was serendipitous: Skip needed seed and Christian needed a place to grow oysters. Duxbury seemed as good (ie: gorgeous) a place as any, so he packed up his life and moved down to the bay. The risk paid off and he’s been happily watching his oysters grow here ever since.
With a sense of humor drier than the bay’s drainer tides, Christian is a meticulous keeper of the farming process, staying abreast of both the weather and seasonal changes of the bay. You’ll likely find Christian out on the water (where he keeps his cell phone dry by stashing it in a sneaker) or scratching his head while carefully watching over his seed.
Christian spends down time with his family (a huge clan who he lovingly calls “The Brady Bunch”) and goes back to Maine as often as his oysters allow.
Longtime Duxbury resident “Billy” Bennett can trace his lineage back to the Pilgrims. He actually grew up on Saquish Beach and his father was the Duxbury Postmaster for years. In his earlier life, he opened and ran Bennett Tire before selling the business in the early 80s to become a full-time commercial lobsterman and run Bennett Lobster and Seafood. Eventually, when the opportunity came up, he started oystering alongside his son Skip. Billy gave up commercial lobstering a few years back but he and Skip still have a friendly rivalry over their favorite pasttime. On the farm, Billy is, without question, the steward of the bay. He can tell you to the day when the bass will start running (watch for the laughing gulls) and keeps a close eye on the weather at all times.
He and his wife Nancy can usually be found at Arthur and Pat’s in Marshfield on Sunday mornings (Billy’s only day off). Together, they have three kids and six grandchildren and live on the water directly beside an osprey perch.
Born and raised in Bristol, Rhode Island, Gregg Morris has had a lifelong interest in aquaculture (URI ‘91). He spent 15 years working for a nonprofit as a fisheries biologist at the Manomet Center for Conservation and Sciences in Plymouth but harvested clams commercially to help pay the bills. He and Skip met through the clamming business, and in 2002 Gregg took on growing oysters and joined the team at Island Creek. He still digs steamers and can almost always be found with a giant cup of coffee and unbounding amounts of energy.
He and his wife Julie and son Colton live in Duxbury.
“Pogie” grew up in Duxbury digging mussels alongside Skip from an early age. He went on to become a commercial lobsterman but started growing oysters a few years back (he continues to lobster full time in the summer). A jack of all trades on the water, Pogie can be seen out on the flats almost every day of the year (harvesting everything from oysters to lobsters to razor clams).
He lives in Duxbury with his wife Christine.
John “the Good Doctor” Brawley grew up in Westport, Connecticut and spent his many, many school years as an undergrad at the University of Vermont, getting a masters at Boston University, and eventually a PhD in Marine Systems Ecology at the University of Maryland. He moved to Duxbury in 2003 as a scientist with Battelle.
In 2007, he left that world to go into aquaculture full time, but he still puts those science degrees to good use through his environmental consulting business, Saquish Scientific, which he co-owns with Alex Mansfield. Brawley also runs Saquish Anglers, a light tackle guide service on the bay.
He lives with his wife Brooke and two kids Max and Jane. His free time, what little he has, is spent on the water exploring all that Duxbury Bay has to offer.
Born and raised in Duxbury, Joe was forever bonded to the water when we decided to marry a girl from Clark’s Island. He is the Conservation Administrator for the Town of Duxbury, and also oversees the upkeep of Duxbury Beach. When he’s not out on the water you’ll probably find him tending to his garden.
Joe still lives in town with his two kids and his wife, Heather.
Also known as Cuss, Hans, or Hanzne of The Jungle, Duxbury native Mark Bouthillier got his start as Skip’s farm manager. A former New Orleans bartender, beekeeper, an avid hunter, fisherman, and trapper, Cuss can often be found prowling Duxbury backwaters with his trusty retriever, Tug. He is known the town over for his local knowledge, his ability to do just about anything with his hands, and his quick wit and magnanimous personality.
Now Mark is utility-man on Skip’s crew and runs his own farm out in the Bay. He lives here in Duxbury with his wife Jen, and their kids Van and Emmeline.
A third generation Duxbury native, Gardner Loring came to Island Creek at 20 years old. Having worked at the Duxbury Yacht Club for a few summers, he was ready to get his hands dirty so he approached Skip about working on the farm. Skip agreed — namely because Gardner knew how to drive a boat. Gard, as he’s called around here, spent one summer on the crew, graduated from Hobart college, then spent another summer on the crew before taking a three-month hiatus to travel around the world with Shore (Skip joined for the South American leg of the tour).
After one more stint on the farm, he tried his hand at the financial world working at Merrill Lynch. It didn’t stick. So we welcomed him back in April 2010 in hopes that this time, he’s here for good. Or at least until he and Skip can resolve their highly contentious lobster rivalry.
Duxbury native Chris Sherman joined Skip’s farm crew and the Island Creek team after years of bouncing from one boat gig to another. The Williams College grad majored in English and Maritime Studies and spent six weeks in Dartmouth’s Tuck Business program before embarking on a sojourn that would find him at a yacht builder in New Zealand and as a schooner bum in the Northern reaches of Maine with a few stops in between. It wasn’t hard to convince the water nut to settle down and take a job on the farm – after all, he grew up working on Duxbury Bay (he used to commute by boat to his job at Brewer’s Boatyard in Plymouth). Chris and his wife Erin recently bought a dilapidated, old, Cape-style house on Duxbury Bay in the “Mosquito Village” neighborhood that many ICOers call home. Also known as “Habitat for Shermanity” it will probably be his undoing. Now, with his head down running the wholesale company and brand, he’s just busy enough not to notice that he’s starting to plant some roots.
The Mac Attack ended up at Island Creek after graduating from Bowdoin College in Maine. As an Environmental Studies major, Annie loved the idea of working in the sustainable aquaculture industry. The ICO brass needed somebody responsible to help out with office work, event planning, and just plain keeping the wheels on the bus. Annie Mac has risen to this insurmountable task with breathtaking aplomb. Whether staging at Island Creek Oyster Bar, grinding out a day on the farm, or greeting unwitting farm tourists, in ICO speak, “she can hang”.
After growing up in Wellesley, MA, Annie decided she was too rad for the burbs and posted up with a few of her college buds in South Boston. She is known to have two DVR’s because the first one filled up too quickly while trying to keep up with the Kardashians. The Mac Attack also drives an all black Jeep with tinted windows because she’s always riding dirty…just like our salt-caked windows on Duxbury Harbor.
Dana Hale grew up about 50 paces from Skip’s parent’s house (and Island Creek Oysters World Headquarters) and spent many Christmas Eves enjoying chowder with the Bennetts. Her parents eat more lobster than anyone on the Eastern Seaboard and graciously share it (along with their home on the Bay… and their wine) with many hungry oyster farmers and guests of ICO – basically, all Hales have got saltwater in their veins.
Dana eventually went off to attend Wesleyan University where she mastered the art of hipsterdom and later bounced around from New York to San Francisco, where she lived most recently teaching yoga, and over to India whenever time would allow. It was in San Francisco where she spontaneously (while eating a burrito) came up with the idea to sell Skip’s oysters on the West Coast, which she did for about a year before returning to Duxbury. We’re now happy to have her back at home base where she manages our national direct-to-chef program, selling Island Creek Oysters to restaurants around the country.
The Oysteress, as she’s known in New York circles, spends her time traveling to restaurants around New York, Chicago, and San Francisco where she’s training staff about oysters, introducing new products, shooting the shit, and eating like a queen. We like to think she’s found her dream job. When she isn’t working, she continues to practice yoga, is a voracious reader, and travels as much as her job will allow.
Cory grew up just north of Duxbury in Hanover, MA. He was connected to Island Creek through CJ’s New Hampshire contingent of merry pranksters. Naturally, he seemed like the perfect fit for the company. With those days behind him now, Cory’s charged with ensuring that only perfect Island Creek Oysters leave our shop everyday. As HACCP manager and licensed massage therapist at Island Creek, Cory keeps us all safe, relaxed, and happy to be on the Island Creek team.
His enthusiasm for everyday is infectious to everyone he is around.
In his free time “The Don” is an avid rock-climber–if you’ve seen Cliffhanger, just picture that. He’s also an avid music fan often heading out on a Friday afternoon to the hinterlands of New England and New York to see an Umphrey’s McGee or Phish show.
C.J. Husk, lovingly referred to as “the oyster dude”, began his career at Island Creek by courting Skip’s female employees who were busy cleaning seed at the Duxbury Bay Maritime School where C.J. was coaching rowing. Skip told C.J. to grab a grader and get to work if he wanted to hang around and he’s made a career at being bad for productivity ever since (but we love him for it). Today, C.J. is ICO’s face behind the raw bar at events all over the country and is attached at the hip to ICO’s legendary raw bar boat, a job he earned after spending several years as the company’s delivery truck driver and head brand ambassador. He is a welcome guest in people’s homes from Toronto to Rio. He is loved equally by the rich and the poor. He is considered a legend by many and a friend by all.
Famously, C.J. used to eat his way through Boston’s best kitchens along his delivery route but these days, he limits meals to just three or four a day. When he’s not shmoozing chefs or shucking oysters he can be found farming goats, pigs, and anything else you can think of both here at his house in Duxbury and at his family’s farm in Hollis, New Hampshire or having a long, long conversation with anyone who will listen.
Jess got her start in the Boston food community at the same place that our oysters did–the East Coast Grill and Raw Bar in Cambridge. After graduating from The Massachusetts College of Art & Design, Jess landed an opportunity with the Boston based art publication New American Paintings. Loving her job in the arts, but never wanting to leave the fast paced restaurant life behind, she split her days between the two, spending what little free time she had hitting all the best bars and restaurants the city has to offer. After selling Island Creek Oysters table side for nearly ten years, she is ready to sell them directly to chefs all over the country.
When she is not driving back and forth from her JP bungalow to Duxbury, Jess would like you to think she is out running along the Charles River, but she is probably enjoying some cocktails with friends, talking about how she should really be out running along the Charles River.
Another college buddy of Skip’s nephew, Bryan started working at Island Creek Oysters under the supervision of Billy Bennett. After a few hot summers and cold winters on the farm, word of his computer skills started to spread. A boxing poster showcasing the upcoming bout between Corydon Wyman and Chris Sherman most likely sealed his fate to make the transition from the farm to the office. He is now responsible for maintaining the website, helping to organize raw bar events, and designing various signs and merchandise. Stop in at ICOB on Sunday mornings for brunch, and you’ll find him behind the raw bar shucking with Eduardo.
When he’s not at his desk, or on the farm, you’ll most likely find him working on his car or browsing the web from his couch. Make sure you stay on his good side and keep your Facebook photos private or you might end up on the next boxing poster.
If you haven’t noticed yet, we have a way of “keeping it in the family” here at ICO. So, its natural that Titus and Cory have been fast friends since their days earning merit badges in Cub Scouts (Titus earned quite a few, eventually becoming an Eagle Scout). Scouting aside, he’s also an orc hunter of wide renown in WOW circles (if you know what WOW is, look for Madax on Eredar).
After starting here part time at night setting up our New York City truck, Titus has bloomed into one of our most effective drivers and a favorite among the crew in the shop. Always willing to drive back across town to fill a late order or pick up, he’s all about meeting chefs and sniping new kitchen techniques from Bean Town’s best. Cabs, buses, bad drivers and distracted pedestrians in the Greater Boston area should, however, be leery of his wrath.
An old Hockey buddy of Tim’s, Ty started helping out at the shop over the summer. Now he has his own desk and a special place in the hearts of everyone here at ICO. When our New York Road Warriors go on vacation, Ty puts on his city clothes and takes a ride down to the Big Apple to fill in. Just make sure you don’t cross him because he will put your on your back quicker than Adam McQuaid.
So, if you’ve been into Island Creek Oyster Bar you remember, if nothing else, one prominent architectural feature–our “midden wall”. This is a wall comprised of cages that are filled with oyster shells. If you haven’t been there then at this point you’re probably picturing a wall the size of the one in, say, your bedroom. The midden wall is, however, about 50′ long and 12′ high. Let’s just say it took a LOT of oyster shells to fill it.
The problem with bringing oyster shells indoors is that they stink, so they need to be washed thoroughly. And then washed again. And again. It is an onerous task when you’re dealing with a bucket full for a Christmas wreath. It is a Sisyphusian curse when you’re dealing with a few hundred thousand shells for a massive installation.
Certainly no one here wanted to do it so we had to contract outside help. That outside help was recent Duxbury High graduate Tommy Reale and when he made it through that summer without weeping, hurting anyone, or just plain quitting he sealed his spot on the A-squad. Now Tom, among other mere Herculean tasks, drives down the length of Cape Cod in the wee hours of the morning picking up oysters from our non-Duxbury farmers along the way. And he does it all with a smile.
When we’re not torturing him Tommy hits the books in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.
Contrary to his behavior and appearance, Topher is actually 67 years old. He sleeps in one of our chest freezers each night, which maintains his boyish good looks and his impish charm. Yet another Duxbury native (and son of the owners of one of our favorite lunch spots) Topher moved on up from the farm to the wholesale company a little while ago. Now he spends his day careening around the Boston fish pier in our big box truck picking things up and putting them down as quickly as he can. When he’s not up in the city mongering, Topher spends his free time yucking it up here in town with fellow ICO operative and known associate, “Young” Tom Reale. He also prides himself at being the life of every company party and we couldn’t be happier to count Topher among our ranks. He loves Belon Oysters.
AG3 was drafted in the 7th round of the 2001 XFL entry draft as a back up punter for the Memphis Maniax. After starting kicker Jeff Hall went down with a foot injury in week two Andy was quickly promoted to the starting kicker position. His biggest moment came in week 4 when on a fake punt he threw the game winning touchdown to tight end Mark D. Thomas. The play was number 8 on ESPN Deportes’ top 10 the following night. At the end of the season he was offered a tryout with the then NFL expansion team Houston Titans where he won the role of starting kicker. After two years of strong punting performances Andy retired to Nantucket where he invested most of his time into growing the island’s finest spring squash. He is now the business manager here at Island Creek Oysters and runs the minor league hockey pool with Coach Tim in his spare time.