Florida comes as close to being completely surrounded by oceans as possible, thus this tropical peninsula has developed one of the most extensive fishing industries in the US. Your interest in opening a seafood market in the Sunshine State is understandable, so give yourself every chance to succeed by approaching your market with wisdom and a great plan. Keep your eye out for the power of Florida supermarkets—they’re steadily usurping Florida’s mom and pop fish shops. That said, muster all of your creativity and resources and you’ll enjoy smooth sailing ahead.

Things You Will Need
  • Funds

  • Retail location

  • Permits and licenses

  • Refrigeration equipment

  • Supplies

Scope out the competition to make certain you’re ready to do battle with established businesses in the 40+ Florida counties already represented on the Florida Seafood Retail Market listing (see resources). Identify population pockets reflecting the demographic you seek—shoppers choosing freshly-caught fish and seafood over frozen tend to have more discretionary funds, so look for affluent neighborhoods.

Apprentice for a seafood purveyor, distributor, wholesaler or retailer to learn, first hand, this business. Become an expert at quality controlling fish, understand the dynamics of inventory maintenance and how to deal with the Florida fisherman or distributors upon whom your business will rely. Take Florida seafood safety, preparation and storage classes through your area’s health department.

Write a business plan that covers start-up and long-term fiscal projections, particularly if you'll need a loan to start the business. Include the competitive analysis you compiled (Step #1). Prepare lists of expenses: rent, refrigeration systems, fixtures, equipment and supplies (everything from shopping bags to a computer system and commercial scales). Add at least 10 percent. Approach Florida banks and venture capitalists with whom you already have relationships when you apply for a loan.

Rent a storefront and shop for equipment. Locate gently used refrigeration systems from Florida-based companies rather than investing in pricey new equipment. Buy an industrial-size backup generator, as your perishable foods won’t survive Florida’s heat and the power outages that can occur when gale force winds blow across the state. Pick a lively name for your market—incorporate "Florida" if you like. Have a local designer tackle your logo.

Visit your county's health department to apply for licenses and permits or contact Tallahassee directly via the Internet to obtain applications. Buy insurance from a Florida broker to indemnify your seafood market against natural disasters (hurricane season lasts from July to October) and liability should, for example, Marlin from a Key West fishery prove to be tainted. Launch marketing/ad programs a month before you plan to open to whet local Floridians’ appetites.

Keep up with federal regulations and enactments that govern Florida’s fishing industry as these help determine wholesale and retail prices. Once-upon-a-time, Floridians were legally allowed to fish the waters as often as they liked, but depletion of ground fish stock now determines the number of days boats can go out. Given so volatile a market, stay apprised of Miami, Palm Beach and Tampa seafood news, as these cities tend to act as market barometers within the state.