Where it all began…
Growing up, Mac spent summers on the Cape learning to fish with his grandfather, known by his sport fishing buddies as “Doc” Bradford. Together, they’d dig surf clams for chowder, reel in the seasonal catch for dinner, and make the best smoked bluefish on the planet.
Learning to fish inspired Mac to source sustainably and eat well (and it’s still one of his favorite things to do.) It has also given him a deep appreciation of Cape Cod and its fishing families.
As his business has grown, Mac keeps the spirit of fishing with his grandfather alive in his work and commitment to the local community.
Mac’s Seafood is one of the largest employers on the Outer Cape, offering people who work for Mac’s the chance to stay here and raise their families. Mac’s also supports jobs in other industries including fishing, farming and food supply, as well as construction and engineering for various company projects.
For nearly two decades, Mac served as board member of SPAT (Shellfish Promotion and Tasting). SPAT is the nonprofit that organizes the famous Wellfleet OysterFest to celebrate the town’s famous oysters and shellfishing traditions. SPAT continues to fund scholarships, grants and educational programs for people pursuing careers and creative projects in the shellfishing industry, while helping to preserve an important way of life on Cape Cod.
READ A GREAT ARTICLE ABOUT MAC AND THE ORIGINS OF MAC’S SEAFOOD HERE>>>
In our own words
Growing up, we spent our summers here learning to fish with our grandfather, known by his sportfishing buddies as "Doc" Bradford. We called him Humpa. He'd wake us up before dawn to dig surf clams for chowder. He taught us to tie knots and rake sand eels for bait. And he showed us his best secret holes on the bay.
In 1995, after a few summers working at the Harbor Freeze on Wellfleet's Town Pier, we got a lease on the market there. Buying local wasn't trendy at the time, but we made it the Mac's Seafood mission because we knew there was nothing better.
Mac drove to Chatham every morning to hand-pick fresh fish. Alex worked the counter. He was too young to drive, but he could sure cut the perfect fillet.
Doc thought we were crazy, but he was proud of our fishmonger dreams, and took charge of the smokehouse himself.
Mac was a cook, working winter seasons in Boston and New York. So, we seared scallops, poached cod, and sautéed littlenecks, too, serving casual counter-to-table dinners right there in the store.
By 1998, we were ready to grow into the clamshack next door. We always loved classic shack food, but we couldn't wait to add fish tacos, sushi, grilled tuna, and summer vegetables to the menu. Now enjoying sunsets at the harbor and eating at Mac’s On the Pier is a summer tradition for visitors and locals alike.
Mac decided if he was going to make bouillabaisse it deserved a proper bowl. So in 2006 we opened Mac’s Shack, a real sit-down restaurant on Commercial Street in Wellfleet. Don’t let the name fool you. The Shack is our cloth-napkin place. We brought in our cousin Sam, the business brain behind Mac’s Seafood, to help us make it all work.
In 2018, we added another year-round restaurant Mac’s Chatham Fish & Lobster.
Mac's Chatham Fish and Lobster is the story of two Cape Cod landmarks - Mac's Seafood and Chatham Fish & Lobster - coming together with a shared commitment to the community: Provide the freshest local and sustainably sourced seafood, outstanding service and really great food. We remodeled the restaurant and reopened in May 2019 with a new menu featuring market fresh fish, seasonal coastal cuisine, an amazing raw bar and best of all, gluten free fried food.
Customers would ask, “Mac, where can I buy that t-shirt?” after seeing him at the Shack in the now-famous Striped Bass tee (designed by his wife Traci, an amazing local artist). Now you can get Mac’s Gear at all of our locations and our online shop. The commitment to quality remains the same – from the fish we catch to the gear we sell.
Markets + Wholesale
In 2003, one of our customers—a summer visitor who lives tragically far from the world’s best oyster beds—called to ask if we could send a couple dozen Wellfleets to him out west. We couldn’t say no. So we set about perfecting the art of ice-cold overnight shipping. Now, anyone in the lower 48 can order from our supply of ultra-fresh seafood online and get a taste of the Cape whenever the mood strikes.
New rules in the fish business almost put a stop to our buying directly from local fishing families. To keep doing it our way, we would have to become official wholesalers and meet the federal government’s new HACCP certification requirements. So we did.
Alex got us there, and we set up a seasonal market in Truro in 2004 (which we closed in 2016 after opening our Provincetown Market), one with enough room to land and cut our own seafood and sell more fresh fish from our local fleet. Now we had the ability to tell you where every single fish we bought came from – a point of pride that we carry to this day.
As orders for our fish and shellfish came from restaurants and markets near and far our wholesale business quickly outgrew this space––we’ve moved it to Eastham and opened a year-round market there, too, in 2009.
In 2011, we took over operation of the Wellfleet Shellfish Company, an HACCP-certified wholesaler. In 2020, Alex took full operational ownership of WSC and now runs the company apart from Mac’s Seafood. But the shared values remain, and Mac’s Seafood still sources fresh local shellfish for our restaurants and market from WSC.
In 2018, we had the good fortune to add the Chatham Fish & Lobster restaurant, market and wholesale division to the Mac’s Seafood family. We can ensure that the most pristine fish flows directly from our shore to your table. Local fishermen unload their catch daily at our Chatham-based facility. Any product not caught in Cape Cod waters is bought fresh five days a week in Boston. And we process everything in-house with the strictest quality control. That means the seafood you buy in Mac’s markets or eat at our restaurants is the freshest – because we really do know where your fish comes from.
Know Where Your Fish Comes From
People have heard us say, “Know where your fish comes from,” but now they’re wondering what that really means.
It means, for one thing, that we actually do know where our fish comes from. Pretty much down to the fisherman. It also means we get top-quality, super-fresh fish. Lastly, we have to learn to roll with the changes each season brings: we can’t just cherry-pick only the most popular fish.
We really do want you to ask us where our fish is coming from, and we want the people who are serving you to know the answers. To get there, we’ll have to become better teachers. I’m thinking now about how to help everyone on our staff know as much as they can about what makes the seafood they’re working with every day something truly awesome.
We still believe there is no match for our local catch. That’s what inspires our ultra-high standards of quality.
While our fish can’t always be sourced locally, we do our best to support inshore fisherman working on a smaller scale. And, when necessary, we rely on sustainable larger offshore organizations.
We respect and work with the whole catch—though the cod out here is fantastic, so are less targeted species like pollock, hake, mackerel, and squid.
A few great seafood items, like Pacific salmon and wild Mexican shrimp, come to us from farther away. In those cases, the same rules we use locally apply: we look for superior quality, make sure the fishermen are people we can actually talk to directly, and support sustainable fishing methods.
Keep asking where your fish comes from. We do. It matters.
Giving back to the community
Fishing on the Outer Cape when we were kids taught us a lot about how everything is connected. Now that we’re raising our own families here, we’re even more aware of the importance of connection—to the environment and to the community.
That’s why we’re happy to get behind gatherings from spaghetti suppers to agricultural fairs and to support local groups who are doing great things like promoting community-based health care and protecting estuaries. We also volunteer for local government committees. It’s important to be involved with the issues affecting the community and contribute whatever time and talent we have to its betterment.
We live in a close-knit community blessed with amazing natural beauty and abundant resources but lacking in year-round industry and good-paying jobs. For that reason, we’re really proud We also support jobs in other industries, including fishing, farming and food supply, as well as construction and engineering for our various expansion projects.
For nearly two decades, we helped run SPAT (Shellfish Promotion and Tasting). SPAT is the nonprofit that organizes the famous Wellfleet OysterFest to celebrate the town’s famous oysters and shellfishing traditions. SPAT continues to fund scholarships, grants and educational programs for people pursuing careers and creative projects in the shellfishing industry, while helping to preserve an important way of life on Cape Cod.