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Splendid Through the Centuries

For generations, Cotuit oysters have been a coveted choice for holiday feasts.

Step up to the headquarters of the Cotuit Oyster Company at 26 Little River Road in Cotuit. Walk down the white shell driveway, past the combination loading dock and deck wrapped in pale blue, wrist-thick dock lines, down the path, past the beat-up work skiffs, to the dock out back. That’s where you’ll find owner Chris Gargiulo, a man rarely at a desk. “I love being outdoors, being on the water,” says Gargiulo.

For more than a century and a half, men like Gargiulo have been harvesting the beds of Cotuit Bay for the Cotuit Oyster Company, turning the name into a legend among devotees of the tasty bivalve. The oysters make their way as far afield as Chicago, the West Coast, and Canada. A “Cotuit” is a brand prized in oyster bars and restaurants around the country. And this time of year, oysters are an integral part of many a New England holiday feast.

During some rare down time in the office, with the Cotuit Bay waters rippling outside the windows, Gargiulo talks about his love of being close to the sea. Orange foul weather gear hangs neatly on racks. A couple of fishing rods are propped on the cooler. “In case I see any bonito and false albacore breaking, I want to be ready,” he says. Gargiulo’s family has been coming to the Cape for years. “My grandfather built houses here in the 1940s, in Popponesset,” says Gargiulo. His father, Richard, moved to the Cape permanently in the 1960s, and Chris has been coming here for all of his 40 years.

Gargiulo bought the business in 2004, but the Cotuit Oyster Company traces its roots to a pre-Civil War America, when the Cotuit shoreline was lined with working oyster shanties, fish processing sheds, and salt works. The company was founded in 1857 and began carrying the trademark “Cotuits R Superior” in 1932.

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