Babylon Village residents have turned to an unusual revenue stream to help raise money for a statue of a clammer intended to honor generations of residents who pulled a living from the Great South Bay.
It is beer.
One dollar from the sale of each pint of Bayman Brew, made at the Port Jeff Brewing Company in Port Jefferson, goes to the fundraising committee for the statue. The goal: $155,000.
Through a beer distributor, Bayman Brew currently goes out to about eight restaurants in the village and on Fire Island. Since June, the company has sold more than 2,000 pints of the Bayman first offering, a light summer ale appropriately named Quahog. Committee members plan to roll out Halfshell IPA this fall.
“We thought it would be a novel way of raising funds for a community project,” committee member Wayne Horsley said one recent afternoon over a pint of Quahog at the Post Office Cafe on Main Street.
He sat with Scott Lockwood, a fellow committee member and Babylon Village businessman. Lockwood made the connection with Port Jeff’s brewmaster, Mike Philbrick, a recreational clammer, earlier this year, and Horsley helped the idea gain momentum.
“Neighbors can go downtown and have a beer and contribute to the statue,” Horsley said.
For much of the 20th century along Long Island’s South Shore, clamming was a multimillion-dollar industry, common enough that many Babylon Village residents of a certain age can recall doing it, or know someone who did. Long Island’s clams found their way to restaurants nationwide and were as identified with the region as the Long Island duckling.
For young people in the 1970s, clamming offered a chance to earn serious money, said Horsley, a former Suffolk County legislator who is now Long Island director for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
“It was $150 a day, versus $3 an hour working for the village,” Horsley said.
Both Horsley and Lockwood were occasional clammers as children, and Horsley’s brother put himself through law school by clamming.
The clam population in the Great South Bay crashed in the 1980s because of several factors, environmental and other. An industry went with it.
Now, decades after the industry’s demise, residents have commissioned Jose Fernandez, a Los Angeles sculptor, to create a bayman out of bronze. Fernandez sculpted the village’s 7-foot-tall statue of one-time resident and master planner Robert Moses, which stands outside Village Hall. West Islip artist Kathy Herzy’s sketches will provide the model for Fernandez’s new work.
Beer alone will not pay the statue’s estimated $155,000 cost. Grants, clam bakes — of course — and a planned gala at the home of Babylon philanthropist Theresa Santmann will cover most of that amount, with local firms and Village Hall expected to make in-kind contributions as well.
But beer can widen the pool of village residents with a donor stake in the project, Lockwood said. “My kids can’t write a $100 or $500 check, but they can buy a beer and give $1,” he said. “They can contribute.”
In the Post Office Cafe, the Bayman Brew tap showed a two-dimensional version of the bayman who will one day next year be unveiled south of Montauk Highway in Babylon’s Argyle Lake Park: bearded and expressionless, wielding clamming tongs but forever paused in his labors — the very image of an iconic Long Islander.
The Quahog ale is a Belgian wheat with hints of coriander and orange peel. It’s been an easy sell, said Kerri Rose, the cafe’s general manager.
“People want to see what it’s all about,” she said. “People like any good story.”