One word is tattooed on the inside of Jimmy Bissett’s right ring finger: it reads “love.” He shares the inscription with his two older sisters. It represents the family tie that knots them close together, a bond written in permanent ink.
At just 26 years old, Bissett has already learned of the transience of family life after the tragic loss of his father in 2011. Since then, Bissett has taken on a leadership role in the family businesses that includes the Long Island Aquarium and the attached Hyatt Place East End Hotel, the Treasure Cove Resort Marina, and the Bissett Nursery in Holtsville. He grew up handling nearly every aspect of these enterprises, from construction to catering and customer service. His father believed that working from the bottom up was the best way to learn how to eventually run a business. This approach is something Bissett couldn’t agree with more, although being thrust into management came a lot sooner than he had anticipated.
This responsibility would be a heavy load for anybody to bear, especially someone in his twenties, but Bissett takes on the challenge with a smile that could light up a room. He practically radiates positivity.
“Life is not easy, but it all comes down to how you look at it, and what you make of it,” he told Milieu over steaming cups of coffee in Patchogue near his home.
“I have seen a lot in my 26 short years, and it has taught me a lot,” he says. “I have traveled the world, seen and interacted with people that have absolutely everything and absolutely nothing. It makes you look at life a whole different way. I take those experiences and apply them to every aspect in my life.”
His travels have taken him from Dubai to Cambodia, where he accompanied his sister who was running an education program in psychology.
“I’ve been to third world countries where the poverty is unreal,” he says. “It’s sad to see these people who you think have nothing, but they have the biggest smiles on their faces. Little kids who are living in the dumps, but they’re laughing and joking. They’re enjoying life.”
The perspective he acquired through his travels is something he carries with him, figuratively in his optimistic attitude and quite literally, in another tattoo inked on his arm. The tattoos that paint his body tell the stories of his life: the collective experiences of his family, his challenges, and his blessings. Jimmy Bissett wears his heart on his sleeve.
Inheriting a business that has been in the family for multiple generations is a gift that makes Bissett feel immensely grateful for having received. Yet, he’s also aware that carrying on his father’s and grandfather’s legacies could be a double-edged sword: how can he express his own passions and interests?
For Bissett, he found it on the water. Having grown up on the North Shore, the water is both his refuge and his playground, so it makes sense that flyboarding—his favorite sport/activity and new business—is water-based.
Flyboarding is a new extreme watersport that uses a water jetpack attached to a personal water craft like a Jet Ski to propel the flyboarder up into the air. Once the user’s up there, the sky’s the limit. Some people, Bissett included, perform incredible acrobatics: flips and dips, both under the water and then astonishingly out, leaping like a dolphin breaking the surface. Other flyboarders use the height they achieve to enjoy the spectacular views from their vantage point.
Bissett discovered the sport while on vacation on Lake Havasu in Arizona and immediately fell in love with it. The entrepreneurial spirit he inherited from his patriarchs led him to bring flyboarding back to Long Island and to launch a business of his own: teaching others the joy of the sport.
In the summer months, you can find him on the Peconic River right behind the Long Island Aquarium, soaring above the water.
“This is my own thing,” he says. “I’m kind of finding myself.”
The lesson that life is short reached him at an early age in a profound way. For Bissett, instead of being held back by a grief he still carries within him, he transforms that sadness into a sense of gratefulness: for the work he loves and for the life he lives. He pays it forward, contributing to charities he finds important, like the Children of Armenia Fund, and supporting towns on Long Island, like the Ridge Fire Department and the Port Jefferson/Greenport Maritime Festival.
“Life is a blessing,” he tells Milieu. “It’s an amazing gift that every one of us have. Life is a sacred journey; a celebration! It is about change, growth, discovery, and always expanding your vision of what is possible.”