When the Beringer family bought the home in the mid 90s, they found a compressor under the house that was used to pump in salt water from the harbor and wooden buoys, relics of a dedicated, self-employed lobsterman who lived in Hampton for 78 years and served as harbor master for more than 20 — Chester Armond Gauron.
Though Gauron passed on in 1994, his tradition lives on in 19-year-old lobsterman, Josiah Beringer.
Today, lobster lovers can purchase “fresh-off-the-boat” crustaceans from Beringer Lobster Company just as they could when Gauron headed the operation.
“A fisherman has always owned this house; it’s been passed down,” Josiah Beringer says of the cottage at 12 River Ave.
“It’s great, because some things are meant to be,” Josiah’s father, Brian Beringer, says of similarities between Chester Gauron’s business and his son’s. “I don’t feel his [Gauron’s] spirit, but this has always been home to us.”
Though this is Josiah Beringer’s first year selling lobsters from his home, he has been heading his own company, Beringer Lobsters, for three years and out on the water mastering the art of lobstering since he was 14.
The summer after his graduation from Hampton Academy Junior High, Josiah says he saw a “help wanted” sign at Al Gauron’s Luncheonette, inviting those with a willingness to learn, good work ethic and a good attitude to apply for the lobstering position.
After making a phone call, he got the job and started work with lobsterman Robert Nudd, the husband of one of Beringer’s teachers at the junior high, Sheila Nudd.
Following a summer and a winter mastering the tricks of the trade, Josiah had built a friendship with Nudd and was well-acquainted with his captain’s expectations.
“It’s his word or the highway,” Josiah says. “The captain’s word is law; you’ve got to hustle out there.”
Beringer has been working on Nudd’s boat, the “Sheila Anne” ever since the summer after eighth grade graduation.
In the winter of 2004, Josiah says he helped Nudd fix up a boat that had been left on the property of fellow lobsterman, Tommy Lyons Jr.
“It was just the hull of the boat when we got it,” Josiah says. “He and I put on the deck, built up the bow, raised the rails, gave it a new engine and put a hauler on it,” he says.
After Josiah had finished helping resurrect the dilapidated vessel, he received quite the surprise.
“He never told me I was going to use it,” Josiah says. “I didn’t pay for it. I take care of it.”
And Beringer has used the boat (which belongs to Sheila Nudd), “The Fifth Dimension” two to three times each week, for the past three seasons to haul in the 150 traps for his business, Beringer Lobster Company.
Josiah says he wakes up every day at 4:30 a.m. in order to head out with Nudd on the “Sheila Anne” to tend to the captain’s traps. And on days when it’s time to tend to his own traps, Josiah stops in for a quick lunch before heading back out alone on “The Fifth Dimension” to haul lobster until seven or eight in the evening.
The largest lobster Josiah has caught was eight pounds, and on his best day this season he brought in 140 pounds. And no matter what, Beringer’s lobsters are always “fresh-off-the-boat.” Sometimes, Josiah says, the lobsters are sold an hour within their transport from “The Fifth Dimension” to the tank in the lobster pound at his home, just a short walk away from the harbor.
This year is Josiah’s first selling them from the lobster pound at his River Avenue home (he used to sell his fresh catch down at the harbor), and he already has plans to renovate in order to accommodate an office and two more tanks.
“We’re starting off little, but we’ll be bigger in a couple of years,” Josiah says.
Beringer’s father and siblings are always on hand to sell Josiah’s fresh catch to customers from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.
Though Josiah is quite possibly the youngest lobsterman out on the harbor and has many years of hard work ahead of him, Brian already says that lobstering has served his son well.
“For 19, this is good,” Brian says of Josiah. “Al Gauron once told me that if kids get into fishing, they stay out of trouble.”
And both father and son say they appreciate the support of the local fishing community, especially the support of the Nudds.
“The fishing community in Hampton is so good just making sure he is okay. Whatever he needs, they give it to him … [and] they (the Nudds) don’t take enough credit for what they’ve done for my kid,” Brian says.
Josiah says he loves doing what he does, and with little help from family, friends and a bit of Chester A. Gauron’s karma, he’ll continue selling fresh, native lobster from the little house on 12 River Ave., for years to come.
Originally published in the Atlantic News Sept. 1, 2006.