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Imagine delivering 30 million pounds of seafood a year along the east coast, from Hoboken to Virginia Beach, and all points in between. With thirty trucks in their fleet, it’s been the primary business model for locally-based seafood wholesaler, Profish, for over three decades. As with nearly everything these days, COVID-19 lodged a big, nasty hook in the operation, which faced reduced purchasing from its largely restaurant-based clientele, everyone from The Cheesecake Factory to Mandu. Still, fish are being caught daily. And they have to go somewhere.
“It occurred to us we could deliver our product to people at their homes and at pickup locations,” says Profish co-owner Greg Casten. “We take orders online the day before, we cut your fish that night, and it’s on a truck the next morning. It doesn’t get any fresher than that.” Profish offers a host of convenient pickup locations, usually an outsized parking lot. Home delivery adds a convenience fee to the price and is only available for specific zip codes.
Casten, a joyous personality with a hint of a native Bostonian accent, can happily talk your ears off about seafood for hours. The seafood trade is in his blood — Casten’s uncle, Tony Cibel, owned The Dancing Crab, a Washington mainstay for decades (it closed in 2016 while under new ownership). The pair joined forces in 1987 to open Tony & Joe’s Seafood Place, now a Washington mainstay all its own.
“Tony & Joe’s is actually how Profish started,” says Casten. “We were having a hard time getting really good high-quality seafood. So I’d call my buddies up in Boston and say, ‘Hey, did you catch any flounder today? Send some down so that I can have a half-decent piece of fish to put on the menu here!'” Casten eventually took matters into his own hands and Profish was born, with an eye toward servicing the region’s discerning chefs.
Casten, well-known for his exacting standards when it comes to seafood, says the key to buying fish is knowing one’s source. “Know who you buy it from, and understand that they know what they’re doing,” he says. “The truth of the matter is, on any given day there’s good fish, bad fish, and medium fish. You just have to know the guys who know how to pick the good fish. There’s a home for all of it and there’s a use for all of it.
“I love supermarkets,” he continues, “but they’re factories and they don’t really care about an individual fish like we do at Profish. We want every fish to be handled perfectly…. My fish cutters are craftsmen — they’re artists who truly love what they do. We look at every piece of fish before it goes out of the warehouse and make sure that it’s quality. Our mission is to get the best authentic seafood into the hands of people who want to eat seafood.”
As for Casten’s favorite fish? “That’s an easy question,” he laughs. “There’s no better fish than fresh cut flounder off the knife. Extremely expensive right now, it’s not in season. But I just love the flakiness and the delicate flavor. I like to pan-fry it. Sometimes I sauté it. I’ll even just broil it with breadcrumbs over the top. I eat flounder every chance I get.”
For more information on Profish’s daily selections, or to place an order from either Profish or Ivy City Smokehouse, visit www.profish.com.
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