I met Allyson Jordan about a year and a half ago. In January 2012, she allowed me to go out for a day of shrimping on one of her family's two groundfish draggers, the 65-foot Jamie & Ashley out of Portland, Maine. That's when I first learned about her business, Eat Local Fish, for which she sells her boats' catch directly to consumers.
When I first heard about what she does, It seemed almost unbelievable. How could anyone have enough time to manage the fishing side of the business as well as the promotion and customer care required for direct sales? But when I met Allyson it made sense. She doesn't stand still for long. She told me she lies awake at night thinking of ideas to keep her family's two boats, which also includes the Theresa & Allyson, viable. She's also been an advocate for the industry since taking over the business 14 years ago, after her father, longtime fisherman David Jordan, died at only 57 years old.
And she keeps moving. I was reminded of Allyson's hard work yesterday when I saw her smiling face on the opening page of our local paper's food section. The paper's food writer had heard about Jordan's business after meeting a couple from Boston. They had bought her fish on a visit to Maine after hearing Allyson on a local radio program (talk about word of mouth). The couple told the writer that their Atlantic pollock and Acadian redfish was the freshest fish they'd ever tasted.
This is how Allyson makes it work: She has a newsletter announcing when her boats are landing and what's on board to buy. She sells fish year-round and this summer will be concentrating on flounder (American plaice or dab). She'll also be selling redfish, hake and pollock, which are being promoted to consumers through the Gulf of Maine Research Institute's "Out of the Blue" promotion of underutilized species.
Though species like pollock and hake aren't as familiar to Maine consumers as classics like haddock, Allyson helps the home cooks feel less intimidated by includng recipes in her newsletters and interacting with customers on her company's Facebook page.
She makes her own deliveries too. After customers let her know what they'd like to buy, she'll either arrange for a pickup at Portland's Holyoke Wharf (where her boats land) or set up a shipment or delivery. In some cases she'll bring fish, which people can buy whole or in fillets, to workplaces or homes. People don't need to be home to get their orders but just leave a cooler at the door with enough ice so that fish is fresh when they do get home.
I don't need need to remind anyone how bad this year's quota cuts have been for New England's groundfish industry. There's not enough to go around. For instance, I talked to New Hampshire's sector manager last week who told me the number of active boats dropped from 22 to just 14 over the past year. The boats still going out are leasing from the boats who are sitting out. When I saw Allyson's photo and read how she was doing I was reminded that's there's still a lot of fight left in this community.