If you either live, work in, or just visit Montauk you most likely have seen the signs for “Bennett Shellfish.” There is a 14 generations story behind the man, Clint Bennett Jr., who is the facilitator of Bennett Shellfish. A story of a breed of folks that settled in East Hampton in the 1600s and have continuously harvested the bays and the ocean for scallops, clams, fish and shellfish. It is the simple story of full lifetimes of hard work in the waters all year round. Traditions and methods passed down from father to sons, repeatedly. They co-existed and traded with the local Indians, who taught them how to put those sticks with the nets in the water you see along the shores of the bays.
Now these baymen exist with millionaires, billionaires, and seasonal warriors who are slowly but surely converting the east end into a real estate agent’s dream of new and higher home prices by the hour. While all this is happening Clint Bennett Jr. is getting up at sunrise and going out into the water seven days a week to bring as he calls it, “The freshest, safest, seafood to sell locally.” Bennett Shellfish is in Montauk at 2 South Debusy Road, and as well as shopping there orders are taken over the phone for curbside pickup at (631)903-5817. One can also go online by googling “Bennett Shellfish” as well as visiting their page on Facebook.
Interviewing Clint Bennett Jr. is like peeling the onion of the history of the east end itself. His voice is modestly strong, filled with compassion and love for all the authentic things about the east end. Clint Bennett Jr. is 37 years old and said in an interview for this piece, “I am a fourteenth generation bayman/offshore commercial fisherman. I have always had to do what I have to do. I started Bennett Shellfish about five years ago when scalloping was still really good. Kim (Kim Esperian his partner in business and life) said, ‘Let’s make something’ and went from just putting together a scallop shop to where we’re at now.”
Where Bennett Shellfish is at now means selling clams, oysters, mussels, fresh fish and lobster, fresh fish pocket, clam pies, shrimp and now even sides like garlic bread, spicy mayo, and other sides. Clint Bennett Jr is federally certified, as he says, “to provide the east end public with the freshest, safest, stuff that I can possibly get. That has been my thing my whole entire life.” He recalls being five and learning from his dad. While attending East Hampton High School Clint Bennett Jr. in his teens discounted college and chose the life of a bayman. As he said, “When I started as a boy, there were many Baymen. But year after year the number gets smaller. We are losing a way of life out here.” Also marketed jointly at Bennett Shellfish are Kimmy Cakes by Billy Bertha.
Kim Esperian is a longtime Montauk local of over twenty years. She is forever the daughter of deceased Lola Snow, who for years was the proprietor of Lola’s Tattoos and who taught Kim a phenomenal work ethic. Years back Kim helped establish the Gurney’s Beach Bakery, and almost single handedly marketed their fine cakes all over the east end. When Gurney’s was sold by the Monte family to new owners, they closed the bakery to concentrate on branding Gurney’s in a new direction.
Therefore, Kim using all her knowledge and partnering up with the Gurney’s Beach Bakery’s baker, Billy Bertha, have created the brand, Kimmy Cakes by Billy Bertha. Together they daily bake and market Carrot cake, Cheesecake, Chocolate Truffle cake and Strawberry Shortcake. Along with Key Lime pies, Chocolate Mousse pie, MTK Mud pie, and a special Pecan pie.
This year Billy Bertha is baking a special Christmas menu that contains neat items like: Igloo cakes, Yule Log cakes, both Pumpkin and Apple Crumb cheesecake. He also is baking, daily, fresh wonderful cookies such as Gingerbread Men, Christmas Sugar Cookies, Christmas Butter Cookies, Mini Linzer, Mini Coconut Macaroons and Christmas Rainbow.
Visiting and shopping at Bennett Shellfish in Montauk is touching history – 14 generations of east end bayman history. And sample Kimmy Cakes!