Fishmonger shares model for success
When J Pieroni and Sons was awarded Scottish Fishmonger of the Year 2015 in the Scottish Independent Retail Awards, third generation owners Johnathan and Mark Pieroni and their business partner, Derek Bentley, were delighted.
“It was all down to a tremendous team effort, offering a friendly, personal touch in the shop, and making every effort to provide the sort of service that brings customers in from all over the West coast of Scotland,” said Johnathan Pieroni.
According to the National Federation of Fishmongers, which represents more than 50 percent of the United Kingdom’s fishmongers, the decline in the number of independent outlets seen in recent years appears to have halted, and new high street stores and wet fish rounds are beginning to appear. In the last survey undertaken by Seafish, there were 950 independent fishmonger outlets in the United Kingdom and 320 travelling fish vans.
The Pieroni retail shop in the coastal town of Ayr is a small part of the business, which also has a successful wholesale arm, supplying fish merchants, hotels, restaurants and the fish-and-chip shop trade throughout the United Kingdom, six days a week.
“We buy in fresh fish every day, predominantly from Scottish markets such as Peterhead, but also from as far afield as Brixham in the southwest of England. Frozen fish and shellfish are imported to meet customer demand. Fish is prepared to specification on the premises, and all filleting is undertaken by skilled craftsmen,” said Pieroni.
“The wide range of fish we stock for wholesale helps us to create attractive displays in the shop, and we find people popping in just to admire them. It may be a well-worn cliché, but we tell customers that ‘If it swims, we sell it.’”
Ever keen to grow his seafood range, last year Pieroni installed a small purpose-built kiln and began to produce hot and cold smoked salmon, hot smoked trout, and smoked haddock, and he already finds that he can’t keep up with demand.
“Our smoked fish is very different from mass produced commercial products, and chefs and the public can’t seem to get enough of it, which means we must have got it right,” he said.
Pieroni is a great believer in getting more young people to eat seafood, which, in turn, will ensure that the business remains strong for the next three generations of his family.
“We have been taking seafood into schools, talking to the children about the Scottish industry, showing them how to fillet a fish, then cooking up something very simple for them to try. We have been amazed by the kids’ positive reactions and the teachers have been pleased with our input,” said Pieroni.
“In one school, we showed them how to make a marinade, used this to cure a batch of smoked salmon, then sent sliced packs to school for the children to take home. A bonus from doing this was that it gained us some new customers.”
At the rear of the shop is a new shellfish pound, with a holding capacity of 2.5 metric tons (MT) of lobster in fiberglass tanks. Live bivalves such as palourdes and cockles are also kept there awaiting sale.
The enthusiasm from children in schools has inspired the partners to turn the pound into a teaching area, where the public can view the lobsters and learn from educational material which is being prepared for the walls. Lots of other ideas to develop the business are still in the planning stage.
“The new facility will be open in a couple of weeks and we look forward to introducing customers to the world of the lobster,” said Pieroni.
As well as fish and shellfish, Pieroni’s also sells an extensive range of poultry, imported game, frozen foods and specialist cooking products.
“Price is important to our customers, but so too is the quality of our products and the level of customer service. We consistently provide both of these at great value and have done throughout the years, and my father still works in the shop sometimes and keeps an eye on us to make sure of it.” said Pieroni.