How is this New York salmon smoker dealing with being near the epicentre of the US outbreak?
You can bet on finding Samaki salmon in one of New York’s most famed foods, the humble bagel. But since the city ground to a halt when NY Governor Andrew Cuomo put strict restrictive measures in to halt the coronavirus pandemic, it’s unclear when normal days will return.
Samaki Smoked Fish Co has been running the company since 1983. First from a stone barn on the property until the current smokehouse in Hudson Valley, New York state, was purchased in the early 2000s.
Samaki Smoked Fish Co’s story actually had its beginnings some 7,350 miles away in Kenya, East Africa.
After running safari camps, founder Simon Marrian started smoking fish as a hobby started off slowly, smoking yellowfin tuna at first and then other local fish.
Before the COVID-19 crisis, which is today operated by husband (Simon’s son) and wife team Jason and Elizabeth Marrian, the company used to supply to NYC’s premier seafood counters
Director of Operations Jason Marrian told SalmonBusiness that it was rapidly adjusting to the new landscape.
“Yes, we are still operating, but only at about 70% (volume) capacity. Foodservice has pretty much gone off a cliff, so that has contributed greatly to reduced volumes. We are experiencing exponential demand for retail packs/grocery, and this has presented us with a bit of a labour challenge,” he said.
Marrian, who cold smokes salmon, explained that retail represented a very profitable sector. However, that came with its own challenges.
“It requires much more manpower and space, so we have been scrambling to reinvent our business while also protecting our employees,” he said.
In terms of getting fish in, especially into New York, has been problematic. Hudson valley itself is about a couple of hours drive from New York City.
“For a very brief period we experienced a complete shutdown of flights into NYC from Europe and South America, but those have since resumed, at least for us. We are not currently experiencing any problems with our supply chain,” explained Marrian.
No partial containers
Marrian explained that because Buenos Aires (approximately half of their Chilean salmon supply was routed through Argentina, the other half through Santiago, Chile) is no longer releasing flights to the United States, he is trucking some Chilean salmon up from Miami.
“So far we have not had any reports of truckers refusing to enter NY state. All of our salmon inbound from Europe is flying into JFK, but we are required to accept full container loads only, no partial containers,” he added.
Have you had to furlough or lay off staff?
“We still have our entire staff on the payroll and have no plans to terminate anyone. We may actually need to hire more employees to keep up with retail demand if we can find them,” he said.