Photo: Harbor Fish Market
We recently caught up with Ben Alfiero who, along with his wife and two brothers, runs the business his father opened in 1969.
Read more about the family and fish market after the jump.
"When my dad first started out, we were a 30 by 15-foot retail store for the community. It's amazing to see how we've grown. We source from all over the world now, and we have things like a wholesale division, air freight and specialty buying. The core of our business is still the same, though: quality, service, selection. We haven't forgotten what makes us special.
Working with family definitely has its ups and downs. Sometimes, things get personal. But it's great to rely on people you trust, people that you know are looking out for the best interests of the business. We all kind of have our specialty areas. Robin, my wife, mainly handles our air freight division and our website. With my brothers, Nick handles a lot of the purchasing and the long distance sales, and Mike focuses on wholesale and specialty buying. But that trust really comes into play when something like a vacation comes up; if someone's missing for a few days, we're all confident that the others will step up and not skip a beat.
I'm not in the store as much as I used to be. Now I handle lots of behind the scenes administrative stuff dealing with human resources, equipment and infrastructure. I like working with the public when I have a chance to though. But we do have a great support staff. They're really the people in the trenches, and we rely on them a lot.
A few years ago, we had to make a choice: Do we concentrate on quality or price? We took a stand and picked quality. So our customers may pay a little more for our fish, but you get what you pay for. All of us are avid cooks. We're always trying out new recipes. So we want quality not only as purveyors, but also as consumers. You know, Portland's basically a small town. It really makes my day when I run into someone at a gas station or somewhere and they tell me how great a fish or a lobster they got from us was.
We must be doing something right, because we've survived for a long time. There are some things we're looking to do going forward: increased marketing, more demos for the public, a larger internet presence. That last one is difficult though because we're such a personal business. But we're not going to change what we're about. Being on the wharf, unloading lobster boats right at our backdoor, providing quality, service and selection. That's Harbor Fish Market. That's Portland. That's Maine."