A woman in charge: The story of Ruth Levy’s career

Published on
June 1, 2016

Ruth Levy grew up the daughter of a fisherman, a fact that would have a lasting effect on her life.

As reported by SeafoodSource last week, Levy is leaving her position as chief business officer at Stavis Seafoods, where she has worked since 1988. Levy declined to discuss the reasons for her departure, other than saying “It’s just time to go.” [Read more: http://www.seafoodsource.com/news/supply-trade/ruth-levy-leaving-stavis-seafoods]

Her career, which began informally on countless recreational fishing trips with her father off the coast of Eastern Long Island, New York, has been a long and storied one, a rare example of a woman rising the corporate ladder in the male-dominated seafood industry.

“Fishing is part of my DNA. I’m incredibly fortunate that I was able to make a living around it and have jobs that have enabled me to travel all over the world,” Levy told SeafoodSource. “I don’t exactly know what my next move is, but I plan to take a one-year sabbatical to reorient myself and figure out what my next act will be.”

As much as it seems Levy was destined for a life in the seafood industry, she was actually headed in a different direction out of college, where she majored in economics and linguistics. For a time, she taught English as a second language and Hebrew, until she “burnt out.”

“I didn’t want to do it anymore,” Levy said. “My dad was in the boat business and I grew up on the water. Before I could drive a car, I was driving a boat. When I decided to stop teaching, I returned to what I knew: I went fishing. The recreational fishing turned into commercial fishing, and I eventually got my captain’s papers.”

Levy eventually was running a commercial fishing boat in the North Atlantic. For a time, she said, she loved it. But then winter hit.

“I decided that I went to school for a reason, and that reason was to not be out on a boat in the middle of the North Atlantic in wintertime,” Levy said. “So I ended up in shore-based jobs after that. But because of that experience, I’ll always have so much respect for the jobs fishermen do.”

Levy went to work managing seafood processing facilities, working her way up to managing a Sea Fresh USA plant in Rhode Island. Then she got a break – an interview at Sysco Food Services in Houston, Texas.

“I went in for the interview and as I walked through their huge warehouse, I asked myself, ‘Why, oh why, do I want to be in fresh fish?’” Levy said. “But the more I tried to talk them out of hiring me, the more they liked me. But it turned out to be a wonderful job – it was like getting my graduate degree in the real world of marketing and procurement.”

After a few years at Sysco, Levy wanted to get back to the Northeast, and she landed an interview with Stavis Seafoods, a family-owned business that had been founded in 1929 and was being run at the time by Ed and Fred Stavis. The company was on the cusp of a major expansion, and Levy sensed an opportunity. She was offered the job of sales manager and accepted.

“There seemed to be a chance for a lot of growth,” Levy said. “I knew with the size of the business, I would be able to wear a lot of different hats, do a lot of different things. And I think they liked my corporate experience at Sysco and I thought maybe I could help them grow the business.”

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