Dry Dock Fish Company

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Sam Lewis takes pride in being a fish monger. His dad, Mark Lewis, founded Dry Dock Fish Company in 1986. Sam remembers simply, “My dad, in the back of his truck, would buy a fish at the dock and then sell it in the market, and that was it”. Dry Dock has since built up a small, yet reliable network fishermen, and currently they are the only five star rated fish market in Los Angeles and Orange County according to the online review site, Yelp. Although you wouldn’t see it quite like that if you were standing out in front of the business. It’s a small building with a façade that belongs in a movie scene where the drug deal went wrong. According to Lewis, a DEA agent even came in one time just to inspect the place. However once the officer sniffed inside, those suspicions quickly dissolved and he became a loyal Dry Dock customer until he retired from the force and moved out of state.

Much of the success accredited to Dry Dock Fishing Company is that they’ve targeted their products to the right kinds of customers by selling at farmers markets. “They’re already interested in organic vegetables, and wild grown this-and-that, but it’s the same people that would appreciate a good piece of fish”, Sam Says.  They’ve built a good supply pipeline with a small, yet skilled group of fishermen. “The secret to getting a good fish is to pay them right away, so they can get back in the water and fish. They don’t want to haggle. If there’s a couple of fish that got cut with the hook, we don’t call them and complain”. The relationship that Dry Dock builds with it’s suppliers is important considering that local fishermen have been hit hard economically. When asked why, Lewis explained that there was no demand for the premium it takes to fish locally compared to buying fish in other countries with looser regulations. Although he countered by mentioning how important it is that people from all over the world work together to make sure that fish stays available, rather than having various populations of fish diminish into extinction.

_MG_8210It all comes back to selling at those basic farmers markets. Stefan Cohrs has worked at Dry Dock for four years, and just like everyone else he started at the Markets and worked his way up. He eventually ran his own market in Los Angeles and then worked his way to Dry Dock’s headquarters in Fullerton. Stefan gave a brief tour at Dry Dock by showing a variety of packaged fish and assorted seafood products they sold at the markets.

Stefan: Nothing in here is for a restaurant. It’s all for retail. People buy from all over the area . We take everything to farmer’s markets and that’s where we do our whole display. We do about 15 coolers worth. We’ve got  live clams, mussels, and oysters. We’ve also got shrimp, scallops, and maybe 6 or 7 different fillets of fish available. There’s some frozen items, but it’s mostly all fresh. We do things like ready made stuff; like stir fry and seasoning. We also smoke our fish so we have smoked salmon and swordfish. We’ll even take some of that and put it in our smoked tuna spread. That’s a cream cheese and sour cream combo. It’s like a nice dip.

Fullertonian: I noticed that you guys have recipes listed on your website, so are you guys constantly in the kitchen trying to find new stuff?

Stefan: Nah, not so much. It’s not that drastic, but we come up with recipes weekly. What we do is we have an email that anyone can sign up for, and then depending on what market they’re at their specific email for that area. So if you’re in Manhattan Beach today, you’ll get the Manhattan Beach email saying what’s at the market that day before you actually get there to shop. Same for the store here. We have our own email for our customers here saying what we’ve got.

_MG_8238Fullertonian: You guys have a lot of markets in LA and Orange County, but you only have three listed in San Diego County though. Is that an area that you’re trying to expand on?

Stefan: Well San Diego is a little bit further, so it is a little bit more of a trek, but some of those have been around since Sam’s dad started.  So we keep them, and they’ve been strong markets for a long time, but it’s a rough area to develop because it’s so far. We got to get the fish all the way down there and all the way back. We have refrigerated vans, and everything’s on ice in coolers.

Dry Dock doesn’t sell exclusively to farmers markets. A few local restaurants have bought fish regularly including Hidalgo, Commonwealth Lounge, Florentine’s, Slidebar, and The Cellar. Of course the business is open to the public and anyone can buy fish straight from Dry Dock. If you’re interested in trying out some great fish you could also sign up for their newsletter by emailing stefan@drydockfish.com, or checking out their website: www.drydockfish.com

Dry Dock Fish Company
1015 East Commonwealth Avenue
Fullerton, CA
(714) 879-6067

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