Norm Bloom and Son, LLC was founded in 1994 in Norwalk, Connecticut by Norm Bloom himself. With a single scow and a modest crew of three, Norm spent countless hours on the water doing what he loved most, harvesting and farming oysters. What started out as a small operation has now turned into one of the largest oyster farms on the east coast. Although Norm began his own company in 1994, the Bloom family has been involved with the industry dating back to the early 1940s. Norm has been oystering since the age of ten and was lucky enough to have learned from two of the best in the business; his father, Norman Sr. and uncle Hillard Bloom, twin brothers and co-founders of Tallmadge Brothers Oyster Company.
Norwalk, Connecticut has been known as “Oyster Town” or the oyster capital of the world dating back to the late 1800s. In the 1950s the oyster industry crashed due to a series of severe storms and hurricanes, and a lack of demand for new oyster seed, putting many of the oyster companies out of business. It was at this time Norman Sr. decided to purchase the unoccupied grounds and was able to rehabilitate the industry creating a demand for oysters once again. In 1972, the Bloom brothers purchased Tallmadge Brothers Oyster Company (est. 1875) and quickly gained recognition for putting Norwalk oysters back on the map. The company eventually controlled 22,000 acres of shellfish grounds from Greenwich to New Haven, CT and 2,000 acres in the Delaware Bay. The company also owned a shellfish packing plant (Bivalve Packing, CO.) in Port Norris, NJ, which is now owned by Norm, his brother Bobby and shell fisherman Steve Fleetwood.
After the passing of Norman Sr. in 1989, Norm found it best to leave the family business and branched off on his own. Starting from the bottom and with help from close friends Gary Dillion, Henry Backer and the Stabel family, Norm was driven to prove that he could make it on his own. In a matter of 20 years, Norm Bloom and Son has grown to be one of the largest privately owned oyster farms on the east coast. Today, Norm’s two children, Jimmy and Jeanne, are proud to be following their father’s footsteps and look forward to continuing his legacy and dream of keeping the Connecticut Shellfish industry alive.
The rest is history…
Norwalk, CT “Oyster Town” History:
Oysters have been a way of life for those living along Connecticut’s byte since the earliest human inhabitations. The Connecticut shoreline has more tributary rivers per linear mile of coastline than any other region in the country, this unique geographical characteristic creates the most ideal environment for oysters to thrive. Native American’s upon their arrival to the region, reaped the benefits of the rich coastline for all of its bounties but found shellfish to be especially abundant and easily accessible. Intertidal flats and shorelines where oysters and clams tend to populate, made a convenient source of protein for local tribes to gather. Archeologists have uncovered countless shell mounds left behind by Native American Tribes teaching us that shellfish was a staple in the local diet.
Europeans began establishing the first settlements in the early seventh century. It didn’t take long for the Settlers to discover the riches that lied beneath the dark waters of Long Island Sound. The newcomers not only found shellfish to be a very important source of food for local populations but a valuable item for trade. This was the start of the commercial shellfish industry in Connecticut.
Connecticut’s oysters soon developed a reputation as the most desired quality of oysters in the world, oysters were being shipped far and wide reaching all the way to the dinner plates of England’s Kings and Queens. With an increasing demand for oysters on a international scale, overfishing soon became a growing issue and the need for regulations was realized. One of the most important advances during colonial times was the privatization of shellfish beds. The King that gave exclusive rights to cultivation of shellfish to the private sector issued grants. This allowed the opportunity to develop farming methods that increase yields and import seed from other regions, and a key component to the sustainability of one of the regions most treasured resources for centuries to come.
Nineteenth and Twentieth Century:
While the country was exploding with growth as it was heading into the Industrial Revolution the Shellfish Industry was also advancing in its own way. The development of infrastructure such as roads and railways created opportunities to expand to new and untapped markets. The equipment used for harvesting was also becoming evermore efficient; Norwalk oysterman, Captain Peter Decker in 1874, introduced steam power in oyster dredging. It was such advances in harvesting technology that allowed the local industry to ship about three-fourths of the trans-Atlantic oyster export. In 1911, Connecticut’s oyster production peaked at nearly 25 million pounds, surpassing New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Nearly a decade after the oyster boom, the market began to decline due to overfishing and severe storms in 1950 that completely wiped out a majority of the oyster grounds. This put many of the shellfish companies out of business leaving them with nothing to show for. It took years of hard work and patience to restore the grounds and create market demand for oysters once again.
Today, much of the techniques used in oyster farming in Connecticut are no different than the process that was used centuries ago. Marine biologists have teamed up with local oystermen to preserve the Long Island Sound in order to create a sustainable breeding and farming environment for local product. The shellfish industry is currently enjoying a steady recovery bringing hundreds of thousands of oysters to the marketplace nationwide on an annual basis. With new regulations in place and advanced aquaculture technologies, Connecticut’s oyster industry is thriving once again.