Q&A by Janice Randall Rohlf
MacGregor “Mac” Hay is the owner of the Wellfleet Harbor Seafood Company and Mac’s Seafood, which owns and operates fish markets in Eastham, Wellfleet and Provincetown. In addition to Mac's on the Pier, the company's signature seafood restaurant located at the municipal pier on Wellfleet Harbor, it also operates Mac's Shack and Mac's Fish House in Provincetown, as well as a catering business. In the last year, Mac’s Seafood purchased Chatham Fish & Lobster, adding a seafood restaurant, wholesale seafood company and two more retail seafood markets to its company.
Why did you choose this career?
I have always had a passion for food and loved the sound of a buzzing restaurant, plates clinking in the background. When I had the opportunity to open my own seafood market and restaurant, I felt confident because I grew up fishing with my grandfather. I knew how to filet fish, shuck clams and oysters, and the basics of seafood cooking. I had worked a number of summer restaurant jobs so I also had an idea of what it took to run a seasonal business. At least I thought I knew.
I don’t think it was a conscious choice to choose the restaurant business. I think it was more of a drive to do something that I truly enjoyed that didn’t feel like work.
What advice would you give someone wanting to follow a similar path?
Don’t. Just kidding. This business requires that you be “all in.” There are very few breaks and little time off, as it is all-consuming. There is so much advice I feel like I could share that it’s hard to narrow it down. I think having a five-year plan or goal is important. I often ask myself how I want things to be in five years and then make decisions based on those goals every day. Someone once said to me, “If you aren’t directing the ship where you want to go, don’t complain when you land in a port you don’t like.”
Other advice: Surround yourself with talented and driven people. Reinvest most of the profits from the business for a number of years if you want the business to grow. Don’t look at money as the “goal” but rather a tool to run a successful business. Don’t be afraid to borrow money.
The key to the restaurant business, and probably most businesses, is hospitality. If you want to go into this line of work, know what hospitality means and extend hospitality to co-workers, customers and the vendors you work with.
In your business, what has been your proudest moment?
It took me about 10 years, but I remember a moment when everything I had been working so hard to attain came together. It was a moment when everywhere I looked everyone and everything was actually working exactly as I had hoped. It was as though the perfect moment had been achieved. It was short-lived, but I felt a real sense of accomplishment.
How has the CCCI helped you get your business off the ground, or how would you have benefitted from a similar organization when you were starting out?
I haven’t tapped into the resources of CCCI but am happy to now make a connection!
What one thing/service in the food industry do you think the Cape is missing?
I think the Cape isn’t recognized enough on a national level for the quality of its food Cape- wide.
What keeps you busy outside work?
I love spending time with my family, fishing, doing some gardening and playing music.
Describe your perfect day of eating on Cape Cod?
I have chickens, and I start my day with fresh eggs, either poached or fried on toast. If it’s my day off, I’ll head out on my boat and hopefully catch a few fish, either bluefish or striped bass. (And if I don’t catch anything, I’ll stop by one of our markets and pick up some fish!)
For lunch I’ll stop by the restaurant and have some sushi, oysters and clams, then get ready to cook dinner. I like using the grill for everything. I’ll do a number of different sauces and marinades for the fish, but I like to keep it simple for the most part and let the freshness and flavor of the fish shine through. I’ll grill potatoes, onions, peppers, corn and anything else in season. While things are on the grill, I’ll shuck some oysters and clams and serve them with lemon and cocktail sauce or a mignonette. I also like doing lobster on the grill with some tarragon butter. A nice meal with some potato salad, fresh grilled fish and veggies, a salad made from garden greens and finished off with a homemade strawberry pie is a fantastic end to a perfect day of eating on Cape Cod.
And if I don’t want to cook, I’ll head to one of the restaurants and order off the menu!