People to Watch

A pair of oyster farmers, a brewer and a tiny house builder are some of the inspiring people helping to shape lives on the South Shore.

By Maria Allen | Photography by Jack Foley and Rosemary Tufankjian


You won’t find any flagship beers on tap at Barrel House Z in Weymouth, and that’s just how brewer and founder Russ Heissner likes it. He came to Boston in 1986 to be the first head brewer at Harpoon, but he eventually left the brewing world to work in biotech. Heissner never shook his passion for beer though, and he eventually decided it was time to follow his heart and opened his own craft microbrewery.

BHZ specializes in small-batch, barrel-aged beers that are brewed collaboratively with up-and-coming brewers from the South Shore and beyond. Innovative recipes called Pilot Pours are served in the adjoining tasting room. The selection is constantly changing.

Despite being a newcomer on the scene, the brewery has already become a community watering hole for beer enthusiasts who can be heard thoughtfully describing one beer as a little “hop forward” and another as having “a warm whiskey finish.” Customers can take beer home in mini growlers or can-shaped “crowlers.” They can also find BHZ beers on tap at numerous local restaurants and in 4-packs at neighborhood package stores. “Our model embraces creativity and variability,” says Heissner. We’ll raise a glass to that.

95 Woodrock Road, Weymouth


Ever since Cohasset entrepreneur Jennifer Askjaer and her business partner Sally George cofounded Swell Marketing Group in 2013, they have been lauded as marketing professionals who change lives and win hearts. Askjaer runs the business out of her Cohasset home and the primary focus of her work is on retail responsibility campaigns.

Their client roster includes numerous national brands like the Joy in Childhood Foundation (Dunkin’ Brands), the Taco Bell Foundation, Dairy Queen, zPizza and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. She has helped these businesses launch socially responsible programs that have a positive impact on the community as well as their business.

In 2017, Swell Marketing Group’s projects will include supporting Dairy Queen’s Miracle Treat Day and its long-term relationship with Children’s Miracle Network Hospital and partnering with the Taco Bell Foundation and franchise owners in the Northeast to help inspire high school students through a national graduation competition.


Whether you need a deck repaired or a flat-screen television hung, no project is too small for the team at SideKick Home. Based in Hingham, the company was founded by homeowner Alex Arata and his friend, contractor Dave Dombroski. Realizing how difficult it can be for busy people to connect with reliable and qualified contractors, the friends set out to create a concierge service that would streamline the home repair process.

SideKick Home is a personal home project management service that specializes in small-to-mid-size projects such as painting, plumbing and electrical repairs. They work with a carefully curated community of local contractors they know they can trust and serve as a single point of contact for the homeowner, thus eliminating the hassle of calling around for quotes.

Customers start out by contacting the Sidekick team by calling, emailing, texting or sending a Facebook message that describes their project request. Their personal “sidekick” takes care of the rest, handling contractor bids, scheduling, service and ensuring the job is done right. Currently serving the South Shore, the team is hoping to expand throughout Greater Boston in early 2017.


It seems only natural that a tiny house expert like Stoughton’s Derek “Deek” Diedrickson would run in the same circles as an environmentally conscious reuse expert like Norwell’s Alex Eaves. The duo recently decided to team up on a joint endeavor—to turn a box truck into a mobile reuse education center and living space.

Eaves is a man on a mission to avoid disposables (he’s almost always seen holding a reusable coffee cup) and educate others about the ways a reuse lifestyle can benefit not only the planet, but also people and wallets. He is the creator of the apparel brand STAY VOCAL, which rescues T-shirts to give them a second life, and the subject of the documentary film “Reuse: Because You Can’t Recycle the Planet.” Deek, who has been building tiny (smaller than 400 square feet) homes for years, is the author of the bestselling book, “Microshelters” and has been a host and featured designer on shows like HGTV’s “Tiny House Builders,” among others. He’s also led hands-on workshops around the country and locally at the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton.

For the box truck transformation, the goal is to create a space suitable for living, working and educating the general public about reuse, using 100 percent pre-owned and upcycled materials. The plan is to film the entire process so they can make a documentary to help inspire people to think creatively and live less wasteful lives.


Duxbury oyster farmers Rob Knecht and Sims McCormick have always loved sharing the local harvest with their friends and family. They recently launched a mobile app called The Real Oyster Cult that enables anyone with a smart phone to order fresh Atlantic and Pacific oysters with the touch of a button. The app features a helpful oyster guide to educate newbies about different flavor profiles and provides instructions on the proper way to shuck an oyster. Customers can browse through images of select varieties, click “order” and have the briny bivalves delivered to their doorstop via FedEx overnight delivery.

“We wanted to give everyone the ability to have the same farm-to-table oyster experience that we enjoy,” says McCormick. “There’s something communal and ritualistic about opening oysters and sharing them with friends. Creating those kinds of experiences is what Real Oyster Cult is all about.” Whether you want to try petite Kumamotos from California, the larger Summersides from Prince Edward Island or knock back a few of Duxbury’s homegrown delicacies, the technology provides you with an ocean of options and a window into the life of the oyster farmers.


Joe Walsmith is a Hingham resident who thinks globally and acts locally. He is the founder of a crowdfunding platform called Fortua, which seeks to help promote and fund healthy, environmentally conscious activities and causes that bring people together while making meaningful changes in the world. “I wanted to create a tool that would make it easier for people to share and monetize their talents, time and expertise,” says Walsmith.

Since its launch in 2015, Walsmith’s organization has helped support everything from pop-up yoga classes and farm-to-table dinners to trail maintenance initiatives and charity bicycle rides. It’s not all about money either. Users can create requests for non-monetary forms of support (e.g. a need for volunteers or supplies, etc.) to help make their projects happen.

“Too many people wait or never start something because it feels too daunting or they don’t have the money or time or they don’t want to take on the risk of starting something,” says Walsmith. “We are using crowdfunding technology to bring people together in the real world and make inspiring, meaningful and fun projects happen.”


Soon after Andrew Collins got out of grad school in 2004, he took a meeting with the CEO of a private aviation company on the South Shore—out of curiosity—and he never left. Collins is now the president and CEO of the Braintree-based Sentient Jet, one of the leading private aviation companies in the country.

The creator of the jet card model, Sentient Jet gives members the flexibility of purchasing flight time in hourly increments, while paying only for the hours they fly. Just this fall, the company launched a new booking app that allows cardholders to book a private jet right on their smartphones and receive live flight updates around the clock. “We offer instant, all-inclusive pricing (with rates locked in for 12 months), which is very hard to do in the charter market,” says Collins. “Going forward I expect about one-third of our flight transactions will come from our app.”

Members also get exclusive perks such as preferred restaurant reservations and tickets to signature events around the country and abroad. Whether clients are for business or pleasure, Collins and his team can have them flying in style with as little as 10 hours’ notice.

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