Jeffery Hazell ’83 has come full circle in many ways. As a kid, he helped out on his father’s Massachusetts lobster boat, and today he owns Bar Harbor Lobster Company, Florida’s largest distributor of New England seafood. While studying hotel and restaurant management at the University of New Haven, he interned at a Disney World restaurant, and this fall his company announced a new food service venture with the resort. But for Hazell, success is just as much about paying it forward as it is about coming full circle.
A generous benefactor to UNH and a member of the Board of Governors, Hazell offers financial and personal support to the programs he says he benefited so much from during his college days.
“Even though I helped my father on the lobster boat as a kid, I wanted nothing to do with being a lobsterman,” Hazell says. “At 15 I got a job as a busboy and fell in love with the restaurant business. The restaurant management program at UNH and the fact that I could play college football – those two things combined are what brought me there.”
In return, Hazell has made numerous contributions to support those programs dear to his heart. He helped revive the UNH football program. He funded the opening of Jeffery’s Fusion Restaurant on campus, as well as the Hazell Nut Café, which provides hands-on experience to students in the Hospitality and Tourism Management program. He regularly donates seafood and meats for the menus. And he established the Hazell Center for Hospitality Sales and Event Management, which provides funding for students to gain entrepreneurial experience in the hospitality field.
In his junior year at UNH, Hazell had just such a handson experience himself through the Disney World restaurant internship. The experience, he says, shaped the course of his professional life.
After graduating in 1983 he moved to Orlando permanently, working as a manager trainee at TGI Fridays and then as the beverage manager at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress Resort. But it wasn’t until two years later, when he went home to Massachusetts for his 25th birthday and once again helped his father bring lobsters to market, that he had the idea to start his own business.
“I was watching this guy pack lobsters into refrigerated boxes and it dawned on me how lobsters go from New England to the rest of the world, and I thought, ‘I should do that in Orlando’,” he says. “I went to the Boston Public Library to look up how to keep lobsters alive outside the ocean, went back to Orlando and bought a house, built tanks in the garage, and sold my first lobster there in October of ’85.”
Nearly three decades later, Hazell has built a seafood empire of sorts in Florida. His Bar Harbor Lobster Company distributes seafood to grocery stores, specialty shops, restaurants and resorts throughout the state.
He also founded and owns Boston Lobster Feast Restaurants, with one location in Orlando and one in Kissimmee. And just this fall he announced the new venture at Disney World, a food truck called Clawdaddy’s that will serve premium lobster roll sandwiches at various locations throughout the Disney Resort.
But he hasn’t forgotten where it all started.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the University of New Haven,” says Hazell, who received a Distinguished Alumni award from UNH in 2007 and an honorary Doctor of Business Administration degree in 2010. “The overall experience I had there, and Disney coming on campus to offer the internship that brought me to Orlando, set everything in place for me.”