Business Overview

Clams are a highly popular shellfish that people enjoy in many dishes. They appear in everything from inexpensive fried clam baskets to pricey trays of clams casino, not to mention the clam chowder that many New Englanders and New Yorkers grow up on.

Many of the clams that people eat are harvested by small business owners who dig for clams in dirt and mud along the shoreline. While there are some boats that fish for clams in deeper waters, small clamming businesses dig and rake up millions of pounds of clams every year.

Who is this business right for?

Anyone who likes being outside near the water and isn’t afraid of hard work may enjoy running a clamming business. Business owners spend hours outside on the shore or in shallow water searching for clams. Working in the muck is guaranteed to make a person dirty and reaching down for clams is physically tiring, but few other jobs allow people to spend their work day near the ocean and return home each night.

Clamming can be especially good work for someone who’s looking for a part-time job and has other obligations. While business owners must be available to work at specific times -- there are only 4 to 5 hours of work per day (see below) -- children can be brought along when necessary, and there is the flexibility to take a day off when the need arises.

What happens during a typical day at a clamming business?

A clamming business owners’ day is dictated by low tide, as Luke Jenks explains. Luke and his clamming partner Mike start their day 2 to 2.5 hours before low tide and continue working until 2 to 2.5 hours after low tide. Outside of this time frame, the water is too deep to work effectively. Most clammers don’t work in the middle of the night, which is why work is limited each day.

After arriving at a clamming location by foot or boat, business owners begin searching for clams. Luke feels around for them with his feet, but others use rakes or shovels (see Jump-Starting). Once clams are gathered, they’re put into a bucket and sorted at the end of the day. Many clammers use an innertube to stabilize and move the bucket. Sorting can be done by hand or with a mechanical sorter.

What is the target market?

Clams eventually make their way to seafood shops, grocery stores and restaurants. Clamming businesses, however, sell to clam wholesalers who are middlemen in the supply chain.

How does a clamming business make money?

Once clams are sorted, they’re sold to a wholesaler in the area. Most clamming regions have only one or two wholesalers.

What is the growth potential for a clamming business?

Clamming businesses remain small, and most are one-person operations. There are few barriers to prevent would-be employees from establishing their own businesses, and the profit margin often doesn’t justify hiring employees. Additionally, work in many states is seasonal.