BEST BUSINESSMAN, RICKY FITZHUGH & BEST SMALL BUSINESS — Dorchester/Talbot Counties
There’s a unique entrepreneurial spirit that drives Chesapeake Bay watermen like Hoopers Island Oyster Co. founder Ricky Fitzhugh. Ricky manages the Dorchester County-based business that’s revolutionized the oyster industry for 12-plus years.
Combining years of experience on the water with passion and newfound optimism, Hoopers Island Oyster Co. began designing its own farming gear and processing equipment. Young oysters were soon growing in onshore tanks and eventually transferred to grow in local waters.
On Hoopers’ farm, delicious oysters are grown and sold to restaurants and consumers through its website, HoopersIsland.com. Seed and larvae, raised at Hoopers Island Oyster Co.’s hatchery, are provided to fellow farmers from Maine to the Carolinas. Young oysters are also grown for restoration projects in partnership with conservation groups and watermen’s associations.
From its manufacturing-and-distribution center, Hoopers Island Oyster Co. designs shellfish aquaculture gear, hatchery and nursery systems and cleaning, grading and sorting machinery. It is one of the world’s largest oyster industry innovators and supplies commercial farmers with equipment and expertise throughout North America and as far away as Japan.
In Cambridge, Hooper’s Island Oyster Co. operates a fresh-seafood market, and its mobile steamer-trailer offers seafood baskets to-go and can be booked for special events.