Seafood markets offer a diverse selection of finfish, shellfish, and crustaceans (crabs). Merchandise may come from local fishermen, and may have been freshly caught that morning. In other cases, seafood markets utilize varied cold storage methods to ship their merchandise nationwide.
According to the Food Channel website, seafood markets and specialty companies pack their seafood in gel packs, ice packs and coolers for air transport. These precautions enable a consumer to receive the fresh seafood of her choice and addresses concerns about freshness and shelf life.
Organize your business. Consult with a Certified Public Accountant experienced with marine industry and food businesses. Contact a commercial insurance agent who has the same background and liability expertise. Visit your city or county clerk’s office for your business license. Finally, contact your state Department of Revenue about a sales tax license.
Select a convenient location. Look for a waterfront or waterview site, as this locale will add a nautical flavor to your seafood market. A location near the water will also make it easier for fishermen to reach you with their daily catches. Ensure that you have easy main road access and plenty of parking.
Consult with your local zoning office to confirm that your site is free of building signage or display restrictions. Commission an artist to create a colorful seafood or fishing mural and order complementary signage.
Order your seafood cold cases. Seafood markets typically display seafood products in specially designed, glass-fronted cold cases. These cold cases feature self-contained refrigeration units, and maintain the seafood at a predetermined constant temperature to promote food safety.
In larger seafood markets, walk-in coolers or refrigerators may be used to store excess inventory. In these cases, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations that address safe seafood storage.
Confirm your seafood suppliers. It’s now possible to purchase wholesale fresh seafood from nationwide sources. In many cases, refrigerated trucks travel the country delivering their catches. Where time is critical, seafood may be flown in on cargo planes or by private delivery services.
Finally, work with local and regional fishermen to obtain their fresh catches. Different types of seafood may be available throughout the year. Fishermen may provide regular customers with one-time options to purchase special catches.
Identify your potential customers. First, list area restaurants that currently feature seafood or are open to expanding their menus. Identify area catering companies and personal chefs. Locate commercial kitchens that serve large numbers of people (e.g. retirement communities or upscale hotel restaurants). Finally, don’t overlook the cash-and-carry retail consumer market.
Obtain your health department approval. Clean and sanitize your entire facility, and then devote special attention to your seafood storage and preparation areas. Contact your local health department for a detailed pre-opening inspection. Fix any discrepancies immediately. Post safe seafood handling and storage practices throughout your market.
Hire seafood-savvy staff. Find employees who are knowledgeable about seafood and who like to share their information with customers. An enthusiastic staffer may be able to encourage a customer to try some new types of seafood; or perhaps to order a larger quantity for a dinner party.
Order your fresh seafood. Contact your suppliers with an order that reflects both variety and depth. In a crab-happy area, for example, order soft- and hard-shell blue crabs, Dungeness crabs and Alaskan king crabs. Tempt exotic fish lovers with a good finfish selection. Establish an inventory system that tracks seafood “sell by” dates and alerts your staff to potential spoilage issues.
Serve some Grand Opening specials. Hold a splashy Grand Opening with door prizes and hourly specials. Offer separate introductory prices to your commercial customers. Invite a noted seafood chef to showcase his popular recipes. Advertise the event in the food section of local newspapers, and place flyers in gourmet and kitchen supply stores.
Based in North Carolina, Felicia Greene has written professionally since 1986. Greene edited sailing-related newsletters and designed marketing programs for the New Bern, N.C. "Sun Journal" and New Bern Habitat ReStore. She earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Baltimore.