Life brings with it a fair share of emergencies, but when your crisis is of the raw bar kind, finally there is a modicum of relief. Wrapped in a European-style ambulance with cresting waves toward the underbelly and a shucker emblazoned where a caduceus might be, the Clambulance is at the ready when oysters, clams, or shrimp are in desperate demand.
No, it’s not a delivery service ready to cater to you and three friends after a night of dirty bananas or PBRs on the porch, but rather a shellfish solution for shindigs of any stripe or size. Gone are the days of needing to book a year in advance — a recent emergency for a group of 100 on Chappaquiddick whose best-laid clams hit a snag was resolved in a mere four hours. A group of 12 facing a rainy Saturday turned a washout into a PVD (Perfect Vineyard Day) well within the bounds of the 10-day forecast.
These are exigent circumstances indeed. Graduation parties, weddings, rehearsal dinners, corporate functions, private soirees, and the like are the traditional fare of the rescue rig (call them one-alarm fires, not five) but the lighthearted touch and savory seafoods are lighting up faces and barbecues.
“Back in the 1990s when I was growing up on the Island,” shares founder and Clambulance driver Beau Begin, “Martha’s Vineyard was a pretty funky place. Mad Martha’s had a ’50s-style ambulance that delivered ice cream, there was a funk ambulance that played music, and so after COVID I just wanted to lighten things up a little bit. I wanted to bring smiles to people’s faces, and bring back that kind of spirit.”
This isn’t Begin’s first rodeo (or 911 call). He began in the raw bar business in 2003, worked for Annie Foley Catering, which he credits for giving him the “space I needed to build upon my raw bar independence,” and founded his own outfit, Vineyard Sound Raw Bars, in 2012. But this was all before the pandemic hit.
“That was a pretty dark period. No one even knew if there would ever be a party again. But I always knew I’d be doing raw bar. I’ve been shucking since I was 17.”
With 25 years of experience under his belt, Begin’s essential business charts its own course via an “agnostic” approach to presentation. “Many times when you go to an event, you’ll see only one type of oyster or clam. That’s because that farm is showing off their product. I can have Honeysuckle, Spearpoint, Menemsha Creek [oysters] all at the same event.”
The Clambulance, while not yet 100 percent carbon-neutral, is crustacean-conscious: “The eco piece is a huge part of it. All of our shells are recycled by the Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group, our shrimp is wild and chemical-free, and you’ll never see a piece of plastic at any of my events.”
Speaking of those events, reception has been prodigious, with a series of rave reviews and a burgeoning social media presence (@ClambulanceMV on Instagram will get your mouth watering) but that’s just the beginning — so to speak. The emergency meal technician has dreams that stretch beyond these shores: “I keep seeing a four-wheel-drive Sprinter van driving up Norton Point [Beach.]” And that’s not to mention Clambulances in other places where demand is high, and care is lacking.
“Is there anything else you want people to know?” asked the Times, time running short and another urgent call coming in.
“Just that we’re open for business.”
Note: If you or anyone you know is experiencing a real emergency, please call 911 or proceed to your local hospital ER. If you’re experiencing a shellfish emergency, or to plan ahead for an upcoming emergency, please call 508-243-6242 or email email@example.com.