Independent seafood markets play to their advantages
In the era of large supermarkets and mass merchandisers, many independent fish markets are still flourishing. It seems that the successful mom-and-pop operators across the nation have a few qualities in common, helping them survive competition from grocery stores, large fish markets and other seafood retailers.
All single-store operators agree that good old-fashioned quality and service are the keys to their success. While shoppers may cut back in other areas, they tend to pay for quality seafood, says Charlotte Sasso, co-owner of Stuart’s Seafood in Amagansett, N.Y.
“Consumers have a high expectation of seafood compared to any other protein. Even though it is a tight economy and people are very price conscious, they will pay more for quality seafood,” Sasso said.
Offering shoppers high quality, local seafood and personal attention sets Stuart’s Seafood apart from grocery stores, she adds. “Most supermarkets or warehouse clubs are not going to have people with the knowledge and dedication,” Sasso says. In addition, employee turnover in independent stores is often less than in supermarkets, she believes. “Our staff stays here, but we have a lot of benefits and extra perks. We serve a hell of a staff lunch.”
Tim Caluya, owner of Tim’s Seafood in Kirkland, Wash., also believes the quality and freshness of the product sets his store apart from chains. Tim’s Seafood buys all of its local seafood from day-boats that use only long-line fishing. “All we do is seafood. If we are going to do just seafood, we have to be better,” Caluya said.
Tony Lombardi, owner of Lombardi’s Marketplace in Orlando, Fla., also believes quality is one of the primary keys to success. “It is sourcing top-of-the-line product and it is also the variety we have,” Lombardi says. Offering a value to customers is also what has kept Lombardi’s Marketplace in business since 1961. “We try to make sure our prices are competitive with Publix, Whole Foods and other stores,” Lombardi said.