Last year, the Port wrote a feature on Fishermen’s Wharf in our “From the Source” series. This year, we revisit this Charleston Marina icon again with its new owners, Will and Shanda Smith. The Smith’s look forward to carrying on the legacy of Fishermen’s Wharf by continuing to value the food, quality, fishermen, customers and the Charleston community. When the Smiths moved to Coos Bay, little did they know that they would later become the new owners of Fishermen’s Wharf. The Smith’s moved from Arizona and arrived in Coos Bay with no jobs or housing lined up and Will, white knuckled from driving the U-Haul. Eventually they settled down in the region and over time, became regular customers at the Charleston Marina. On every off day that Will had, he and Shanda would take the family to go crabbing off the docks. One day, they saw a “For Sale” sign on Fishermen’s Wharf which peaked their interest. After a few weeks, Will walked in and said “Take that for sale sign down because we’re going to buy it.” 30 days later, Fishermen’s Wharf traded hands.
With a background in raising and selling cattle, the Smith’s approach selling fish in the same manner placing the highest value on the food, quality, and customers. These values align with how the LeDoux family ran Fishermen’s Wharf over the past 12 years where they have been able to build a strong network of suppliers and customers. Will looks to maintain the strong relationships with customers by providing great customer service and by continuing to source products from local fishermen. From watching the fishermen on the dock, Will understands that fishing is not a “rosy business” and appreciates the hard work of the local fishermen. Therefore, he tries to buy from as many fishermen as he can. His only criterion is that the fish is the “top of their catch because that is what the customers want.” Once bought, the fish is sold fresh for a day and a half and the leftovers are frozen and vacuum sealed. Many customers remember the fish so well afterwards that they call to have Will specially ship out fish to them. Most the fish sold in Fishermen’s Wharf is locally sourced but Will’s goal is to increase this percentage in the future. For example, he hopes to be able to source all halibut locally instead of having to import from Alaska during the offseason. It’s apparent that Will takes pride in the fish that he is selling because as he puts it, it’s “real food.”
In addition to fish, Fishermen’s Wharf also sells locally sourced crab in the winter and various other products. These include farm fresh eggs, different seasonings, Fishermen’s Wharf apparel, snacks for tourists and on weekends only, cioppino stew. According to Will, cioppino stew is a dish that originated on the Fishermen’s Wharf dock in San Francisco. As the fishermen brought back in their catch, they would all donate a piece of their catch to the big pots of stew their loved ones were preparing for dinner. That’s how cioppino stew, a stew with a variety of different seafoods, came to be. For only $4.50, you can get 16 oz of house made cioppino stew from Fishermen’s Wharf on Fridays and Saturdays. It is so good that one customer comes every weekend with his own fill-up container for this stew.
With a few months of experience in running the business, the Smith’s are looking forward to the peak summer season and being a part of the Charleston community. Will makes a point to try all the local restaurants and services so that he can be knowledgeable for his customers as well as support the local merchants. With the Smith’s love for the work and ocean, it seems that the legacy of Fishermen’s Wharf will continue. The little red hut on the end of Dock D will continue to be the gateway for customers to get fresh and locally sourced seafood right off the docks in the Charleston Marina.