Restaurateurs’ market of choice: Merrick marks milestone
For many restaurants in Southwest Florida, Merrick Seafood on Southeast 47th Terrace has become the go-to place to get the best and least expensive seafood.
Recently, Merrick, a popular retail market and abutting restaurant, hit an impressive milestone as it welcomed its 250th wholesale client, Sea Salt Restaurant in Naples.
Patrick Krieg, who co-owns the market with his wife, Kerry, have grown the market steadily over the past few years since buying it in 2009, with the last two years really seeing things take off, Patrick Krieg said.
Certainly, the improved economy has helped, but Krieg attributes it to doing things the old-fashioned way, with an emphasis on quality, pricing and customer service.
“We have quality-control apparatus in place. Our buying practices have changed and that has upped our game on every level,” Krieg said. “Not every sector of the economy has improved, which is why we diversified to open a restaurant.”
The restaurant (The Fish Tale Grill) and the market’s successful retail enterprise, which also consists of ready-to-cook items such as crab-stuffed fish, are complemented by the successful wholesale market.
Merrick’s commercial clientele is predominantly restaurants, with other markets thrown in, and that aspect of the business has become a force in Sanibel, Cape Coral, and much of the area, Krieg said.
That growth has contributed to lower costs to their clients and their customers, as today they sell more than 1.5 million pounds of fish annually.
“The more buying power we get, the more savings we pass on to the customer, which helps us grow further because when you’re competitive to your restaurants, we’re going to get more business,” Krieg said.
Merrick mostly deals with local fishermen and direct from auction for fish not native to Florida. They have buyers and brokers and other outsourced people who can get them a wide variety of products, some of which you can’t get anywhere else.
Having so many clients and having to send out so much fish daily means having to work almost around the clock. Merrick’s cutters come to work at 3 a.m. daily to filet and prepare the fish for the restaurants they deliver to the same day it is received.
There is little to no waste as the cutters, some of whom have years of experience, strip the bone and skin off the fish and filet it before six air-conditioned trucks take the freshly prepared product to their clients throughout Southwest Florida.
“The better the product we can secure at the best price, the better quality we’ll sell at the best price to the restaurant,” Krieg said. “Customer service has been our focus for the past several years and it’s starting to pay off now.”