All Peeko oysters begin in a hatchery as seed—juvenile oysters, slightly older than the minuscule spats but still measured in millimeters. “I could be buying them as small as sesame seeds,” Stein says. “I’m buying them more the size of, like, gigante beans.” Smaller seed is cheaper to buy but less hardy. Larger seed is more expensive, but the oysters have a better chance of survival. When Mother Nature is feeling sympathetic and the trio does everything right, about 75 percent of the oysters will survive to reach adulthood. This isn’t always how it works. “There’s tuition that you’re gonna pay,” Stein says. “Going into a corporate job, of course you’re going to make mistakes. But a mistake in a corporate job doesn’t mean you lose 90 percent of your inventory.”
In a lot of ways, Stein is an improbable candidate to become a shellfish farmer. Unlike many in the business, his lineage does not include watermen. (His ancestors probably kept kosher and never tasted an oyster.) Though Stein grew up vacationing on the North Fork of Long Island, he liked oysters only as much as any food—and, even then, food wasn’t his passion. “I mean, I enjoy going out to dinner,” he says. “I get Zagat in my email, but I barely ever open it, you know?”
He started his career in management consulting, and later found his way into education software. When he was laid off in 2015, nothing about him seemed to suggest his next job would be anywhere besides another desk. Certainly no one who knows him would have guessed a job growing oysters. He isn’t a bold eccentric with a dream, nor does he seem to have anything to prove. As a captain, I doubt he’d go down with his ship, if only because he wouldn’t ever crash it in the first place.