Everett fish market finds value added and customers happy

I was prowling around the newsroom Friday morning instead of writing this column when I got into a conversation about business words and phrases.

I threw in one I hate, which is the word “hire” used as a noun, as in, “He’s one of the new hires.”

I know I’m being old school, but I just can’t accept it.

Jim Haley, our court reporter, shared one that he hates, “value added.” While it’s pretty common in the business world, it certainly is jargon and is not universally understood. Basically, it’s changing the preparation, manufacturing or marketing of an item so you’ve got a better product to sell or have increased or changed its uses.

The bottom line is you make more money.

Right away, I thought of a great example of a decision that added value to a business just down the block. Suddenly, I had the idea I needed for today’s column.

D.J. Peterson gets value added. For him, it came in the form of fish and chips.

But I’m getting ahead of the story.

The Waterfront Fish Market at the corner of Hewitt Avenue and W. Marine View Drive has been a favorite of mine ever since I met Bill Grannom, the original owner. I like him and I’ve always liked his market because it has really fresh fish and its crab cakes (with red pepper or without) are absolutely fabulous.

But I was worried about the business because it just didn’t seem to have enough customers.

That all changed in April of 2006 when Grannom started a fish and chips takeout business in addition to selling raw seafood.

D.J. Peterson, who worked in the shop at the time and bought it with his wife, Hallie, later last year, said the idea came up as he and Grannom were fishing in Alaska. “There are a lot of great fish and chips places up there,” he said.

One day they visited one and thought it would be a great addition to the shop.

Before the fish and chips, Peterson said the business was chugging along, but made nearly all its money during the summer months as people came in to buy items for the barbecue. “In the dead of winter, we’d get two or three customers all day,” Peterson said.

After the walk-up window was added, business boomed, perhaps doubling in summer, Peterson said.

“The motive behind the kitchen was to get people coming year-round.” he said.

It’s certainly accomplished that goal.

The kitchen, which sells a whole array of cooked seafood, not just fish and chips, is about 30 percent of sales right now. But Peterson said it has drawn in loads of new customers, many of whom buy both cooked seafood and fresh items to cook themselves at home.

“We get people every day who walk in and say, ‘I never knew this was here,’” Peterson said, adding they were drawn in by the seafood kitchen.

The shop is selling more volume, so it has a lot less waste than in the past, another benefit of the takeout part of the business.

All in all, Peterson said the simple idea of selling people a meal to go has been “gangbusters” for the business. “We’re smashing the previous (monthly sales) numbers,” he added.

Yes, Peterson gets value added.

He considers it crucial for the seafood industry and has several more ideas. I mentioned the crab cakes they already sell that all you have to do is saute in a pan. He’d like to add some pasta salads, dips, spreads and other items that are ready to eat or to prepare quickly.

“Take a piece of halibut and put two or three ingredients on it and you’ve got a one-step meal,” he said. “Nobody has time to cook anymore.”

I agree with Jim that value added sounds a little like jargon at first. But I get it when Peterson explains it to me.

Take some fresh fish and cook it up for someone and you’re no longer selling a hunk of fish, you’re selling a meal. And selling a meal helps you sell more hunks of fish, especially if you put a couple spices and some spreads on it.

Value added.

Peterson makes it sound so easy. And it actually makes sense, although Jim might not think so.

Mike Benbow: 425-339-3459; benbow@heraldnet.com.

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