A fresh start for new seafood business
It’s 11:15 on Friday morning and Eric Juell has just finished a nine-hour round trip from Nevada County to the Bay Area and back.
Yet, there’s no sign of fatigue on the face of the 55-year-old entrepreneur as he and two employees remove around 300 pounds of fresh seafood from three large coolers.
‘You’re not going to find any seafood fresher than this around here, ” said Juell as he walked through his Nevada City Fish Co. business at 1020 Whispering Pines in Grass Valley.
Juell’s business is about as fresh as the fish, oysters, scallops, shrimp and tuna that he personally selects three times a week at wholesale markets in the Bay Area.
He opened the fish company less than two weeks ago and is already seeing walk-in traffic even though the location is in a business park. Juell said several local restaurants are among his customers as well.
Jeff Genovese, a commercial salmon fisherman, and his wife, Nya, were working on Friday, too. Jeff was filleting the new shipment of seafood, while Nya was cleaning it, wrapping smoked salmon in air-tight packages and greeting customers who wandered into the retail portion of the business.
“There’s no flip-flopping of inventory here, ” Jeff said. “We get the product the same day it is caught, and we don’t bring much more than we plan to sell. “
Juell makes his round trip to the Bay Area on Mondays, Wednedays and Fridays. On this particular day, he made stops at piers 33 and 45 in San Francisco and at Bay City. Before he left, he had Wild King salmon from Oregon, Hamachi from Japan, scallops from Maine and the Sea of Cortez, Rock Cod from off the coast of California, and four different types of oysters as well as other types of seafood.
The prices for fish, which are listed on a blackboard in the retail section, range from around $14 to $20 a pound.
Once Juell purchases seafood from wholesalers, he packs everything into coolers filled with flaked ice and returns to Grass Valley. Juell says cubed ice can damage seafood.
Once the seafood arrives, the Genoveses begin their work. Juell said it is the processing of the seafood locally that separates his business from competitors.
“My real advantage is laying the knife to the fish here because once you do that it starts to decay, ” he said.
Juell said he has been working on the business for about a year with his wife, Enedina, a local real estate agent. The Nevada City resident said he spent six months preparing a business plan and evaluating the market.
Now, that he’s finished renovating the Whispering Pines location, one of Juell’s growing overhead expenses is gasoline. On this particular day, he spent $86 to get to San Francisco and back, which he said represented less than 10 percent of his costs for the trip.
Another unanticipated development has been the decision by the state to ban salmon fishing this year. Jeff Genovese, who has fished for California King Salmon for 30 years, is among the casualties of the depleted salmon runs. His boat now sits docked at Bodega Bay.
On Friday, he said he was pleased to work with Juell, who got his experience in this business while in high school and working for Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto in Berkeley, at the time a well-known restaurant, retail and seafood-processing operation.
Juell retired five years ago after working in the pharmaceutical industry. Now, he’s looking forward to his fresh start in the seafood business.
“Everybody in town that I have talked to has been really, really positive about this, ” he said.
To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4239.
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