The Chinook Observer spoke with Safe Coast Seafoods general manager Shannon Schafer, Pucci Foods CEO Chris Lam and Safe Coast Seafoods vice president of sales Max Boland about their plans as the new owners of Jessie’s Ilwaco Fish Co.
When do you anticipate the official re-opening?
Schafer: “We plan on being open this crab season.”
Are there any plans to change the name (from Jessie’s Ilwaco fish Co.)?
Schafer: “Safe Coast Seafoods has purchased the Jessie’s Ilwaco Fish Co. assets. We will be operating under the Safe Coast Seafoods brand.”
What are the next steps before the business can resume operations?
Schafer: “The next step is to improve the facility and get ready for the crab season.”
What are some of your short term and long-term goals for the business?
Schafer: “In the short term we will be getting the facility ready to produce high-quality products. We will be buying crab, black cod, shrimp, oysters, razor clams, salmon, tuna, Pacific whiting and halibut.”
How will the business be different under new ownership?
Schafer: “We have facilities up and down the West Coast ready to offload boats. We have our markets in place. We have a higher commitment to making sure our fisherman are paid on time. We are a new company that would like to build a long-term relationship with the community, fisherman, local businesses, and the Port of Ilwaco.”
Approximately how many employees do you expect to hire?
Schafer: “This will vary by season and availability of product.”
In which areas do you feel the business is currently well equipped?
Schafer: “We are well equipped to offload the boats, find markets, and process any available products.”
Which areas do you feel there’s the most room for improvement?
Schafer: “There is a lot of room for improvement in the facility, upgrading equipment and improving processes.”
What do you foresee will be the biggest challenge before reopening?
Schafer: “After everything Jessie’s has been through, the biggest challenge will be getting the support of the local fishermen, businesses and community. Safe Coast Seafoods is the new guy in town and we would like the opportunity to show everyone how different we are.”
How do you plan to rebuild or regain the trust of fishermen who felt burned from previous dealings?
Schafer: “Safe Coast Seafoods is offering a faster pay schedule and is extending credit to our fleet to cover their initial bait and fuel charges.”
What aspect are you nervous about?
Schafer: “Bringing in enough products to support our large processing plant.”
What aspect are you most excited about?
Schafer: “We are most excited about being a part of the Ilwaco community and getting people back to work. The Port of Ilwaco has graciously accepted us as port tenants. We would like to become trusted members of the community not only supporting the local fisherman but other local businesses as well.”
Your firm is based in the Bay area. Does that mean products produced here will be sold down there?
Lam: “Product is sold nationally and internationally. It will be processed here and go directly to the consumer. It’s wherever the markets dictate. We prefer to go from Ilwaco direct to customers so it doesn’t add to logistics.”
Will you be reopening the local Jessie’s retail outlet?
Lam: “We’re planning to keep the name because Jessie’s has been part of the community a long time. We will have the retail in the future, but right now we need to get the main plant up and running first.”
Who will be managing this plant on a day-to-day basis and what is their background?
Lam: “Shannon (Schafer) will manage it day-to-day and Max Boland will run the dock operations and processing stations including San Francisco, Crescent City and Ilwaco.”
What plans do you have with regard to covid safety (in light of outbreaks at other processors in this region)?
Lam: “We in the Bay area were one of the first to incorporate protocol before CDC recommendations, including masks. We required all masks and temperature checks. The masks are free for employees. We require hand washing and sanitized stations. We have heath providers coming in to provide tests for employees. We plan to do the same thing for all of our facilities.”
What is Pucci’s corporate history?
Lam: “It’s been around since 1918, a long history. We’ve always been innovative. We built a brand new facility 15 years ago and upgraded with green energy and solar panels. We have ½ megawatt generating electricity and implement the latest green technology including LED lights. We’re going to replace all the Ilwaco lights (at Jessie’s) with LED, like we did in Crescent City. It reduces energy usage. We’ll try to utilize innovative technology as much as we can. We fine tune constantly to make sure we’re the most efficient.”
Is there anything you would like to add?
Boland: “We really need the support of the fishermen and the community to be successful there. We’re going to do our best to make it happen. All we ask is people to give us a chance. We’re going to do a lot of improvements. We just ask for support to help us move along to make this a success. Everyone benefits.”
Lam: “We’re not in competition with Ilwaco Landing. We’re providing another source for the community. It’s good to have two or more outlets for our fishermen to work with. We’re just seeking an opportunity to build that relationship and trust. We only ask them to give us a chance and bring us product to process. I’m willing to invest in the facility, but it takes a village to make this work. We’re already working on getting the roof fixed and other upgrades, but we need the support of the fishermen and community. If you look at the history of Pucci, we’ve been a community company. We’re excited to be part of Ilwaco and get things going again.”