I often ask myself, “Why don’t I eat more mussels?” I think it might be because I have this idea that if I’m going to eat mussels that they need to be prepared a la Fore St. and Scales. Ya know: wine, butter, garlic. So much garlic. And, of course, for optimal broth-soaking, a fresh baguette from Standard Bakery. But after talking with Matt Moretti from Bangs Island Mussels, I realize that I am being far too precious (and exaggerated) and a quick zap in the microwave would do just fine. For reals. I asked him how he eats mussels and his response was, “The easiest way and sort of funniest way is in the microwave. Take some mussels, Bangs Island Mussels specifically, the fresher the better, throw a handful in a cup, no water or spices or anything; then you steam them for a less than a minute.” According to Matt, [You] get the ultimate pure mussel flavor steamed in their own sea water; salty and creamy. Sometimes the flavor is parallel to oysters but less raw, like cucumber.”
Matt is not the first owner of Bangs Island Mussels, but he is responsible for its recent success. He says they have scrambled a bit, and things have happened somewhat unintentionally, but with a focus on moving forward and making things work he has done a great job making a product that is only available wholesale and at restaurants, popular to consumers. He operates with a focus on growing the business and making it work long-term for everybody. And when he says everybody he isn’t just talking about senior staff. He’s thoughtful about including all of the Bangs Island Mussels’ staff, four of whom are full-time, and their future with the business, "We are working on benefits, increased pay, and more usable space. The first office was a closet with no windows and smelled like crap all of the time.”
Bangs Island Mussels staff must be pretty happy about the business and its future because when I asked Matt about what everyone listens to while working, he told me the guys on the boat sing: “We got a new-to-us boat and it has a functioning stereo. The previous boat was very loud and it’s a nice change to be able to listen music. They listen to like classic rock. John, Zach, and Ben; they have a musical routine. They sing a lot. I don’t know how it started but they just all started singing. It’s really fucking cool.” To clarify, because I asked this question, yes, they sing out loud to music and sometimes not to music, ya know, a cappella-like.
Matt gave me a quick tour of their operation on Maine Wharf on Commercial St. It was a cold day but when you’re on a wharf on Commercial St. it doesn’t seem to matter as much because there is so much to look at and take in. I got to meet Will who was cleaning out some trays and had earbuds in so, of course, I asked him what he was listening to, “Chopin.” He also told me that when some of the Bangs Island Mussels staff started working together, they would each be fulfilling their own task while listening to music in their personal ear buds. Till one day Will got a speaker and they started enjoying (and singing) music together. I asked him if the joy and music in the room is what helps the mussels achieve superior quality, like plants. We joked about it, but I can’t help but think it’s this exact lifestyle/balance/joy that is making businesses like Bangs Island Mussels so successful; people are interested in their story and business because it’s human and accessible and you want to connect it with it because is radiates good. Matt said it best, “The mussels sell which is really great but it’s also the people that really make the story.”