Gone Fishing

BY LORI TOBIAS

Business has been good to Laura Anderson, leading some to suggest she must be awfully lucky to find such success in a business notorious for failure. But luck’s had little to do with it.

profileendersonIMG 3316-Edit 620px

BY LORI TOBIAS | PHOTO BY SHARON BIDDINGER

Mid-afternoon at the Bayfront Local Ocean Seafoods in Newport finds guests overflowing onto the sidewalk, hanging out and watching the fishing fleet come and go. A wait for a table here is the norm, but no one seems to mind.

Business has been good to Laura Anderson, leading some to suggest she must be awfully lucky to find such success in a business notorious for failure. But luck’s had little to do with it.

Rather, Anderson has relied on foresight, creativity and a unique partnership with the local fishing fleet to drive sales this year to nearly $3 million, proof that a restaurateur can buy locally sustainable seafood in large volume without committing financial suicide.

It’s not just good for Anderson but for the local economy, which benefits from the $1.2 million her staff takes home in tips and wages, the fishing fleet, the environment and, of course, fans of fresh, locally caught seafood.

“My business is not just about serving another plate of fish and chips,” says Anderson, 43. “I consider us seafood leaders, on the forefront of the sustainability movement, actively educating consumers. Oregon boasts some of the best-managed fisheries in the world. That creates a real sense of pride for our fleet, our staff and our customers.”

Terry Thompson, a Lincoln County Commissioner and lifelong fisherman, skippers one of the 50 vessels Anderson buys from. She understands what quality seafood is, Thompson says.

“She is unusual,” he says. “She is a woman who has at-sea experience, having fished with her father. She’s taken the idea of locally produced seafood and allowed it to go to the public, direct from the boat into her store and onto her table.”

Anderson never set out to own a restaurant, but she earned a master’s degree in marine resource management at Oregon State University.

Twelve years ago, an investor asked her help in finding a developer for an empty Bayfront lot. That led Anderson to fisherman Al Pazar, who operates Florence’s Krab Kettle. Pazar suggested a similar business might work in Newport.

When Anderson sought advice on the venture from her father, a second-generation fisherman, he gave the tip of a lifetime. “He said, ‘Go 50/50 with him.’ I said, ‘Dad, I am just out of grad school. I’m broke.’ He said, ‘That doesn’t matter because you are the one who is going to put all your blood, sweat and tears into it.’”

Three years ago, Anderson bought Pazar’s share. From the beginning, she’s operated the combined restaurant and market on one central premise: “Our whole brand is centered around buying as locally as possible,” Anderson says. That means, unlike other seafood restaurants, she can’t use farmed shrimp or Alaska sockeye salmon.

“I could, but it wouldn’t pass my personal red-face test,” Anderson says. “We get so much salmon right here, I wouldn’t need to purchase from far away.” But she is open to buying seafood, such as halibut, from fishermen at greater distances if it isn’t plentiful here.


Prev 1/2 Next »

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.