To celebrate the start of the commercial bay scalloping season on November 2, we had a quick chat with the brothers of The Nantucket Bay Scallop Trading Co., Alex, Drew, and John Whelden.
N MAGAZINE: How did The Nantucket Bay Scallop Trading Co. come about?
WHELDENS: We started the Trading Co. in the winter of 2012/13. Initially, we froze our catch for our family restaurant – The Lobster Trap – but we wanted to give people the experience of having the freshest Nantucket bay scallops right from the source. The Trading Co. allows us to offer fresh scallops to anyone and everyone, no matter where you live.
N MAGAZINE: In what ways do you think it’s helpful to be in business with family?
WHELDENS: The greatest benefit of being in business with family is probably the sense of loyalty and companionship we feel toward one another. We are all in it together and no one wants to let the others down. It keeps us motivated to work hard and make sure we are as successful as we can be.
N MAGAZINE: In what ways do you think it’s harder to be in business with family?
WHELDENS: The hardest part of working with family is making sure that our family relationships come first and business comes second. We have put ourselves in the position of sharing a livelihood and it is very important to not let the stresses of that get in the way of family ties.
N MAGAZINE: How old were you when you first went scalloping?
WHELDENS: Our earliest scalloping memories involve the three of us kids back in the mid to late 1990s. We would sit around in our driveway in Madaket with our father, Larry, and our grandfather, Ernie, who was quite quick in his shucking. We remember getting pretty cold sitting out there!
N MAGAZINE: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about bay scallops?
WHELDENS: Most people lack general knowledge of the fishery itself. It is a very unique thing we have here in our Nantucket harbors and it is a huge part of the island’s history and tradition.
N MAGAZINE: Where is your favorite spot to scallop?
WHELDENS: We’ve heard it’s best out in 7th bend.
N MAGAZINE: Favorite way to eat a scallop?
WHELDENS: If you have to, you can use a little butter, salt and pepper. But they are really best right out of the shell.
N MAGAZINE: Any funny stories or fishing mishaps you’ve had while out scalloping?
WHELDENS: Nothing too out of the ordinary, just the usual heckling between boats and shaking of fists. We’ve towed each other back into the marina a few times (we have two boats) with minor engine troubles. One time, we got the yolk of dredge wrapped around the lower unit of the motor…that turned out to be quite the puzzle getting off in 20knots of wind.
N MAGAZINE: If someone wanted to place an order for your bay scallops, how would they do so?
WHELDENS: We have a retail shop set up on our website where you can order one of our specialty retail packages to be shipped overnight anywhere in the country. They make for great holiday gifts!
N MAGAZINE: During the non-scalloping months, The Nantucket Lobster Trap is where you put your focus. How has that business expanded or grown in recent years?
WHELDENS: The Trap has been around since the 1970s and we are always making improvements. In recent years, if you were to drive by the restaurant in spring you would have seen us up on scaffolding putting up a new sidewall or a new roof, or down laying bricks for a new sidewalk and patio. This year, we remodeled our kitchen. We’ve also expanded our business into a food truck, which we keep out at Cisco Brewers during the spring, summer and fall months. Our featured item is the Nantucket Bay Scallop Roll, which we will be serving up fresh this Christmas Stroll weekend.
N MAGAZINE: Which do you prefer: scallops or lobster?
WHELDENS: We had an entrée at The Trap this summer that paired pan-seared Nantucket bay scallops and a 1 lb. butter-poached lobster. That way we didn’t have to choose!
N MAGAZINE: If you had to make a time capsule of the 5 items that most represent Nantucket to you, what would they be?
WHELDENS: A surfboard, fishing rod, Nantucket Lobster Trap sign, a scallop shell, and a cobblestone.