Coastal Seafoods is poised to become a big fish in the small pond of the Twin Cities.
The Minneapolis company, acquired in 2016 by Chicago-based Fortune Fish, recently announced an expansion that will make it almost 10 times its current size. If all goes according to plan, Coastal Seafoods will open a wholesale operation in the former W.W. Johnson Meat Company facility just across the street from its current location at 2330 Minnehaha Ave. by summer.
The wholesale side of the business (which goes by the Fortune Fish name) will be joined by a retail store (with the Coastal Seafoods name) before the year’s end. And in total, the move will increase Coastal Seafood’s domain from 6,000 square feet to almost to 50,000 square feet.
All that extra room will allow both Coastal Seafoods and Fortune Fish to provide customers with more seafood varieties and add to its inventory of gourmet food items like olives, cheese, and cured meats with an emphasis on local producers. Fortune currently sources seafood from all over the world, including farmed Japanese Hamachi, mussels from the South Pacific, Spanish Turbot, and other kinds of fish you’ve probably never heard of: the orange-finned Opah, the silvery behemoth Trevally, and the long, weighty Meagre. Live varieties available at the new facility will include sea urchins, sea scallops, bay scallops, and eels. They’ll even have monkfish liver, dubbed the “foie gras of the sea” by fish fanatics.
Because Fortune Fish works with many James Beard-award-winning chefs, restaurant goers may see these exotic varieties on menus in the near future. “The whole idea is to open up that portfolio of goods to as many of our local chefs and out of state chefs to give them those same options,” Jon Novak, president of Fortune Fish, says. As the Midwest distributor of fish for Whole Foods in Minnesota, grocery shoppers should also see a wider array of fish available for home cooking.
Coastal Seafood’s retail facility will be larger as well, located in the same building as the wholesale operation. Wholesale should be up and running by summer; retail will follow by the end of the year. (The St. Paul location of Coastal Seafoods will not be affected by the expansion.)
Because the new wholesale and retail location is a former meat packing facility, construction consists mostly of retrofitting the space for fish processing purposes. That will include a freezer expansion, production floor reconditioning, and new racking systems to accommodate storage. “The bones of the facility are really good, but obviously seafood and meat process different,” Novak says.
Ozonated water is one of the upsides of the expansion construction. An Ozone is a machine that adds extra oxygen molecules to the water used for processing fish, improving sanitation and cleanliness. That system will be integrated into the new processing facility. (Fortune Fish’s 100,000 square-foot warehouse in Bensenville, Illinois already uses this process.) Special tables with conveyor belts in the center will also be part of the new operation, allowing up to eight workers to hand-cut fish and toss the waste onto the conveyor belt, where it’s then shuttled away.
Fortune Fish was actually smaller than Coastal Seafoods only 16 years ago, but the company grew quickly. It delivers to six states directly with their own trucks and drivers, but its Bensenville warehouse doesn’t have a retail division. Coastal Seafoods did, and was located in Minnesota, a part of the Midwest market that Fortune Fish hadn’t reached yet. After Fortune Fish acquired Coastal Seafoods, ownership decided to keep the name Coastal Seafoods for the retail division because it was such a well-known, trusted operation in town.
“A lot of our customers speak of how well-versed our retail counter people are and how happy they are when they leave with both the product and the experience. We’ve had that same review from our wholesale customers in all the other states that we deliver to,” Novak says. “We figure if we just focus on what we do well, that that success will just follow suit here in Minnesota.”