Learning to fish.
Growing up, we spent our summers here learning to fish with our grandfather, known by his sportfishing buddies as "Doc" Bradford. We called him Humpa. He'd wake us up before dawn to dig surf clams for chowder. He taught us to tie knots and rake sand eels for bait. And he showed us his best secret holes on the bay.
In 1995, after a few summers working at the Harbor Freeze on Wellfleet's Town Pier, we got a lease on the market there. Buying local wasn't trendy at the time, but we made it the Mac's Seafood mission because we knew there was nothing better.
Mac drove to Chatham every morning to hand pick fresh fish. Alex worked the counter. He was too young to drive, but he could sure cut the perfect fillet.
Doc thought we were crazy, but he was proud of our fishmonger dreams, and took charge of the smokehouse himself.
Cooking on the pier.
From day one we steamed lobsters to go—that's to be expected around here. But Mac was a cook, working winter seasons in Boston and New York. So we seared scallops, poached cod, and sautéed littlenecks, too, serving casual counter-to-table dinners right there in the store.
By 1998, we were ready to grow into the clamshack next door, just as the Larsens were wanting to retire. We always loved classic shack food, but we couldn't wait to add fish tacos, sushi, grilled tuna, and summer vegetables to the menu.
Weddings? We do.
Cook your lobsters for you? Any time. But could we steam a couple hundred of them for cousin Liberty's big day? "Of course," we said. That's how we learned it might be handy to have an experienced catering director on hand. Now there's Mac's Parties & Provisions for everything from cocktails to clambakes.
Landing ‘em in Truro.
New rules in the fish business almost put a stop to our buying directly from local fishing families. To keep doing it our way, we would have to become official wholesalers and meet the federal government's new HACCP certification requirements. So we did.
Alex got us there, setting up a second market in Truro in 2004, one with enough room to land and cut our own seafood. He's a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points nerd, and can tell you where every single fish we buy comes from.
As orders for our fish and shellfish came from restaurants and markets near and far our wholesale business quickly outgrew this space––we've moved it to Eastham... but the Truro market is still bustling.
Wellfleets go west.
In 2003, one of our customers—a summer visitor who lives tragically far from the world's best oysterbeds—called to ask if we could send a couple dozen Wellfleets to him out west. We couldn't say no. So we set about perfecting the art of ice-cold overnight shipping. Now, chefs and home cooks across the lower 48 can shop Mac's online: we ship!
Mac’s cloth-napkin shack.
Mac decided if he was going to make bouillabaisse it deserved a proper bowl. So in 2006 we opened a real sit-down restaurant.
It's uptown on Commercial Street in Wellfleet. The name is a spoof. We're sorry for any confusion, but the Shack is our cloth-napkin place.
Our cousin Sam came on board to help us make it work. He knows his fish. He'd pitched in at the Pier. But he's a numbers guy, too. And when you grow, you need one of those all year round.
Year round in Eastham
2009. Our third Mac's market opens down the road in Eastham. Finally: a Mac's that stays open all year.
Eastham is also now the home of our wholesale operation.
And when you shop Mac's online, here's where we select and pack your super-fresh seafood to order.
Big fish forever.
As our business has grown, we've tried to keep the spirit of fishing with our grandfather alive in our work and in our commitment to our local community. Learning to fish inspired us to source sustainably and eat well. It has given us a deep appreciation of Cape Cod fishing families. And it's still one of our favorite things to do.