The past, the present, and creating the future.
For more than 40 years, the Mato’s brand has dedicated themselves to oyster mastery. They produce the freshest, domestic, premium-quality product harvested in Gulf waters and have built a well-known and respected reputation based on Fresh Value, Quality Consistency, and Industry Integrity. In Mato’s world, it’s not just about one component; it’s the culmination of the past, present and creating the future.
It all started in the early 1970’s; that’s how long the Lepetich brothers have been in the oyster industry. It began with a genuine passion of both brothers wanting to work together and expand their knowledge of what they grew up understanding from their elder Croatian ancestry. You see, in the beginning, they simply started with the will to want to become better individuals, to learn and to progress, grow themselves and to grow more oysters. So, a legacy ignited by the sheer thought and question, “why not” because to reach the point of having the privilege to a story, like one of Mato’s Oysters, it usually entails at least one unique character, if not more. The tale of Mato's began with two, the Lepetich brothers, Anté and Mato. And lead to third that includes Matt Lepetich, Mato's Son, the current owner of Mato's Oysters.
It's an inspiring narrative, one that includes depth and rich family history. Both men had a combined amount of abundant will and unwavering commitment to their craft and family values. Traits of
vision, drive, loyalty, integrity, the will to grow and so much more.
All a dynamic recipe for creating and sustaining a successful business empire. And, today it’s still exactly what they maintain as their base
Certainly not strangers to the oyster world, they’ll be the first to tell
you when it comes to oysters, it’s a world of endless hours and an unpredictable array of circumstances from Mother Nature. They're known for stating, “you can’t grow, what you don’t know, so just get
to it and go." One of the many plays on words adapted throughout their most spirited of times as they built upon expanding their expertise of cultivating their own fresh, quality oysters.
Born in the early thirty's and late forty’s, the Lepetich brothers grew
up without the innovative technology we have at our disposable today. Their knowledge derived from hands-on experience and the sharing
of family stories amongst their Croatian relatives. Those stories originated from a separate set of understandings and an entirely different culture, yet it didn't stop them from learning and carving
a successful path for themselves. So much so, you'd be surprised in knowing that neither knew how to speak English before venturing to the United States and their first grasp of how to bed oysters involved sticks, tree branches, and garden rakes. Yes, rakes. And that's just a
few highlights in the first chapter to the Mato’s story.
Upon moving to the U.S. in the 70's, they both started out working as deckhands for other boat owners in the seafood industry. That's how they learned the ropes. It took no time for both men to grasp that cultivating oysters of their own was the way they wanted to go. And so, Mato's Oysters' vision and signature motto, "We Grow Our Own" was born. Quite bold aspirations for any type individuals, yet both men just knew what they had to do. And, that meant they needed to become boat owners themselves.
And, so they did. Anté ran the Tino, previously owned by his in-laws.
A vessel prior known as Captain Jerry. Mato purchased a 45 footer named Pam III and renamed it the Lepetich Brothers. In no time, they were covering Gulf waters from Mississippi to Texas. From sunrise to sunset, they continued expanding upon their knowledge of the industry. From everything in the hands-on world of cultivating oysters, to the mass attention to detail it took to harvest and produce the freshest of the fresh, it's what they did. They didn't stop, they grew. From an estimated 40 plus acres, they expanded into the hundreds within just a few seasons.
Their business expansion increased throughout the 80's, including private ownership of oyster crops, in addition to leases leading to owned. They just kept growing, they farmed the oyster beds and ran their operation. Mato expanded his fleet, purchasing another boat called the Challenger. They continued building alliances with buyers and distributors across multiple areas, and if a season didn't pan out
so well in one, their visionary strategy of spreading along the Gulf waters supported them in sustaining a healthy Gulf oyster enterprise from season to season.
All the while there was a third addition growing up within the Mato's family tree. The second generation and third pearl to the "Oyster Trinity Mix" and Mato's legacy, Mato's son, current day owner of Mato's Oysters, Mathew Lepetich. Matt is a Gulf oyster, master.
After all, he's grown up tagged to the Mato's Motto,
"We Grow Our Own."
Those that know Matt will tell you he's the most genuine personality one could have the privilege to meet. He's tremendously passionate about oysters, loves his family and thrives on innovation in the industry. Not a bad combo for a guy in his line of business. But, don't Matt's comfortable boat guy persona fool you, remember he has grown
up knowing and what he knows is championing the world of oysters.
Just like his uncle and his father, he started as a deckhand and quickly after that, navigated his way to operating his father's boat, the Lepetich Brothers. Shortly after that, Matt was running a boat
of his own, one he designed, engineered and named the Contender. Yes, you have read correctly, at one point the Mato's
Fleet exceeded a collective 200 feet composed of the Tino, the Lepetich Brothers, the Challenger, and the Contender.
But it wasn't long, the largest natural disaster in Gulf history hit, Hurricane Katrina. An experience that will not soon be forgotten that tested the spirit of many, including Matt and his commitment to Mato's. His boat the Contender was damaged and in the midst of working through the extreme challenges another storm, Hurricane
Rita, raced in right behind no long after. Growing up knowing, Matt knew what to do. He instantly pioneered his way to designing, engineering and building a new boat, Mato's flagship today, the Champion. And that is why, you see in their current branding efforts, the tagline they own, "We challenge and champion, the Gulf oyster world and contend with the best of the best."
Matt is leading the Mato's Oysters legacy with an estimated acreage exceeding the thousands. His entrepreneurial vision has placed him
at the forefront of the oyster industry. He's steering the second generation family-owned Mato's business and creating the future
for Mato's Oysters. He already has several stories in his repertoire
to match his ancestors.
So, if you want to know about fresh, quality, Gulf oysters, just ask Matt. It's no mistake Fresh Value is their #1. It’s their staple, and they live for their legacy. It's tied to the pride Mato's Oysters takes in harvesting
the freshest of the fresh and consistently providing their customer with exactly that.