John and Stephanie Lowell
While many parents worry about what their teens are doing in their spare time, that's not the case for John and Stephanie Lowell. Their son, Rob, is one of the youngest people on Cape to be working his own shellfish grant. And he's been shellfishing commercially on his family's grant since he was just eight years old.
A junior at Cape Cod Technical High School, Rob is also class president, an honor student, and a member of the varsity tennis team. His favorite subject in school is Marine Technology, and he loves to work on both car and boat engines. He hopes to go on to Mass. Maritime Academy and says: "I love living on the Cape. I'm never leaving."
He comes by his love of the Cape lifestyle naturally. His father, John, came from the Boston area to work a roofing job with a friend. He loved it and stayed. John met Stephanie when she had a flat tire in the driveway of her summer rental house. He came to her rescue and the rest, as they say, is history. They've been married for 20 years, and also have an older son, Sam (whose interests don't run to shellfish) and a dog named K.C., for Kitty Cat, a Brewster pound special.
Stephanie works out of her home office as a Certified Public Accountant and a Justice of the Peace. "I can do your taxes and marry you," she jokes. A native of Western Mass. and a graduate of the University of Vermont, she still loves downhill skiing and goes to Colorado to ski the slopes of Copper Mountain and Keystone. "But," she says, "one of us never likes to leave Dennis!"
The Lowells have had the East Dennis Oyster Farm for five years, with Rob having his own acres, as well as working with his family. The teen says he eats some kind of seafood every day. Stephanie, on the other hand, didn't taste her first oyster until a year-and-a-half ago. Now she eats them even as she's working on the flats. "I discovered that I love them," she says, "I don't eat other raw things, just oysters. It's sacrilegeous to cook them."
John is not as addicted to oysters as his wife. But after spending years as a landscaper, and still doing that part-time, he says he much prefers being out on the beach oyster farming. He warns, though: "It's not an easy business. "If you don't LIKE oyster farming, it's the world's worst job."
In addition to his grant, John has a HACCP facility (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point), so he can not only harvest oysters but refrigerate and sell them as a wholesaler. His major customers are restaurants in Dennis, Whole Foods, and Rex's Seafoods in Dallas. His entrepreneurial bent has led him to offer internet shipping, especially at holidays, and to obtain a Dennis catering and food service license so he can set up raw bars with his own product. "Our oysters are briny, crisp and clean. They're not mineral-y," he says. He advises eating them naked: "Cocktail sauce is for people who don't like oysters."
Explaining that he's "one of the new kids on the block," John adds, "I'm happy to have E. Dennis oysters spoken of in the same breath as Wellfleet and Cotuit oysters."
While his parents will staff a raw bar at a restaurant or charity event, Rob has a part-time job at Dennis' Ebb Tide Restaurant, cooking on the line. Sometimes he'll be assigned to shuck Lowell-grown oysters. "As you can see, work life, home life, and social life is very intertwined for us," says Stephanie. John chimes in: "I'm married to the best girlfriend I've ever had." All in all, for the Lowell family, you might say that the world is their oyster.
To learn more, their web-site is: www.DennisOysters.com