Real Good People: Norm, Jimmy & Jack Bloom
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Family Tides With Norm, Jimmy and Jack Bloom

On the shores of Connecticut, one family is keeping an oystering tradition alive.

If you’ve spent any time cruising the Long Island Sound, chances are you’ve spotted one of the boats from Copps Island Oysters. Wind or rain, sun or snow, these proud ships make their way in and out of Norwalk Harbor, working oyster fields that run up the Connecticut coast from Greenwich to Stonington.

Standing in the pilothouse of Cultivator with grandson Jack at the helm and son Jimmy pointing where to go, Norm Bloom has a commanding presence.

“I started around ‘94, on my own with a small boat. Jimmy actually started with me, he had his own boat,” Norm said. He points out the window to a swath of water off the bow. “Right up ahead here, it's lot 59. That's where Jimmy started planting his oysters when he was probably six or seven. He pulled a wagon down the street with oysters, selling them locally. That’s how he bought his first boat.”

Much like farmers tending to their crops, the Blooms have boats on the water 6 days a week, 12 months a year, harvesting, planting and cultivating their oyster beds. “The big difference between oystering and farming is with our farm, it's a three year crop. So a farmer on land gets to turn the soil over, plant a seed, sow it, and then harvest it in the fall. But once we get our seed, the baby oysters, we have to harvest that for two, three years before we can start to sell it. Right now, if this was a cornfield, you'd be seeing acres and acres of corn out here,” Norm said.

Oystering is, by its very nature, a tough business.

“There's not too much time off in our business. Everything we catch is important to us, everything has value. We need the oyster shell, because without the shell, we're not going to have the future product. We need the small oysters to go back in the water so we always have spawners, and then we need a few that we can sell. So the nice thing here is everything is recycled and reused.”

It is this sense of stewardship for the sea, a hard work ethic and his vision for what could be that has helped Norm and Jimmy grow from one boat and a wagon full of oysters to a fleet of more than 30 vessels, ranging from 50- to 100-feet. But Norm also has humility, and knows that, just like oystering is a sustainable industry, he has to keep his business sustainable as well. “We try to keep our market pretty stable, allowing the farm to go up and down. Because if you chase the market with the farm, when you're on top, you’re on top, but you’re going to be in trouble when it goes down. So we try to keep things manageable. You can have a ton of oysters and sell them one year. Next year, you plan the same thing, and the market's not there. Or the market will be there and you don't have the oysters because a storm hits. It's hard, but you have to be consistent every year.”

But it’s not the success he has seen with his business that Norm is most proud of.

“I always say Norm Bloom and Son is made of families. And it’s not just us. Now, I have my original guys, but I also have their kids, too. It’s nice to see the second generation of them working for us,” Norm said. “So this is really across the board a generational operation.”

“Jimmy started building this with me at a very young age. My father had a twin, and when I was younger I would always say, ‘Oh man, I wish I had a twin.’ Well, Jimmy ended up being my twin. He grew this thing with me. We started with one little small boat, and just kept building it,” Norm said. “ I always hoped that my kids would take an interest in the business, but I try not to force it upon them, I try to make sure that they want to be here. It's a good business. It's a fun business, but it's not easy all the time.”

To see the Blooms in action and try some of the best, freshest oysters you’ll ever taste, check out Copps Island Oysters (coppsislandoysters.com). Trust us, you won’t be disappointed.

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