Hardworking fishermen, enwreathed by gulls, head out to sea and return to Stonington Borough with the fresh catch of the day. We New Englanders treasure our local seafood and often those dedicated to providing the service of supplying seafood work quietly and passionately behind the scenes. Thirty-year-old is a business filled with such people.
With a storefront in Pawcatuck, co-owners Alene and Ted Whipple also navigate their incoming fishing fleet from their office and seafood storage on the misty Stonington docks. Albert and Lil Whipple, Alene’s brother and sister-in-law are also owners but prefer to leave the business affairs to Ted and Alene.
Alene, best described as stalwart, community minded and fiercely loyal, is originally from upstate New York. She and Ted met there and eventually she moved here to get married and start a life together.
“I have always been drawn to the ocean, so if the relationship worked out, I knew I would move here,” Alene said. “I come from a big Italian family, and Stonington has those same values. It’s a nice area and a good fit.”
Ted, a lobster fisherman since age 18 had been selling lobster to the owner of Seawell when the business became available three years ago. Alene’s business degree and extensive restaurant experience combined with Ted’s background made purchasing the business an ideal opportunity.
They employed family and trusted friends who were also industry professionals. Although the Whipples put in many hours, Alene is quick to dole out credit and success of the business to all involved saying the wholesale business started with two accounts and Sam Sawyer has grown the business exponentially.
Alene takes pride in Seawell's product. She says what they don't catch, they try to support the local economy by buying from the local docks.
Alene’s favorite experience in Seawell is when the old timers come in and tell her about the local history such as how life was on the docks and when flounder was fifty cents a pound. These experiences are reminiscent of her blue-collar upbringing.
When my continuous line of questioning diverts Alene away from the business and into the personal she says to Sawyer, the fish buyer, ”She keeps asking me to personalize and everything I say goes back to Seawell. I have no life Sam,” she laughs effervescently. “My biggest excitement is the Deadliest Catch starting its new season on the Discovery Channel and that’s about fishing too!”
According to Alene, they don’t take days off often but an ideal date would be going crabbing in the coves on a Carolina skip at night. She says they usually do this during the end of summer to early fall, followed by sitting up until 2 a.m. in the back yard, devouring the catch.
Alene’s goal for Seawell is to provide a quality product and continue to prosper while finding a way to repay her hardworking employees, giving them the benefits of a large company with more time off.
One thing is for sure, Alene loves what she does:
“I think [this business] filled a big void I had for a quite a while and now Seawell is like my family,” she said.