Did you know it is possible to get fresh-from-the-dock seafood that’s never been in a warehouse in land-locked Columbus? A one-man operation, Ian Holmes is changing how several Columbus restaurants source their seafood.
From Boston to Central Ohio, Coastal Local Seafood brings “anything that swims” from pier to plate.
Holmes was working as a delivery driver for a bigger seafood company, learning the ins and outs of the business. Order a bunch of seafood. Store it in a warehouse. Sit until ordered, then oldest product out the door first.
“I thought if you could get chefs on board for ordering ahead of time, you could get a fresher product,” Holmes says. “I sell it before I buy it.”
If a chef says he needs 10 pounds of tuna, Holmes calls a dock in Boston and it’s at the restaurant the next day.
“I don’t warehouse anything,” he says.
Twice a week the seafood purveyor places an order and a truck drives from Boston, backs up to Coastal Local’s delivery truck and it’s off to the restaurants. Holmes used to have to dive halfway to the coast to meet the truck, but over the course of a year and a half has earned enough weight that the truck now comes to him.
Collecting about 25 orders a week, Coastal Local Seafood services well-known eateries like Due Amici, Latitude 41, Angry Bear Kitchen, Alana’s and La Tavola. The A&R restaurant group whose portfolio includes The Crest and Market at Italian Village, is Coastal Local’s largest client.
Holmes has built a rapport with his chefs. The number one goal is to provide an A+ product. If it’s not available, it’s not available. The chefs trust that he will substitute with whatever is freshest from the dock.
Coastal Local knows this whole process might not be the cheapest option, but Holmes says it’s balanced out by the fact his seafood won’t be tossed. If a chef gets a delivery on Thursday it’s going to stay good through the weekend if not longer because it’s not already working on a three-day lead time from sitting in a warehouse.
Word of mouth and a marked difference in taste has earned Coastal Local its client list. While on a cold-call visit at a restaurant, a patron at the bar asked if Holmes was with Coastal Local. The diner had recently been to La Tavola, where the he’d heard the restaurant had a new seafood supplier. The patron said it was the best seafood he had ever tasted.
“Most of the people are just blown away at the difference,” Holmes says.
He encourages restaurants to ask for a better product. Chefs don’t have to get their seafood from the same place they get their steaks.
Holmes didn’t expect to become an entrepreneur, but found seafood to be an industry that just struck him.
“Somebody has to be the first to split off and try it,” he says. “It seems to be working so far.”
“I haven’t had one item returned in a year and a half,” Holmes says.
Now that he’s an entrepreneur, Holmes has some ambitious, albeit admittedly far-off dreams that include a retail storefront, more ways to get fresh seafood to individuals, and opening a little oyster bar in Columbus.
For more information, visit coastallocalseafood.com.