Saving a small seafood business while treating yourself


HONOLULU (KHON2) — Restaurants and hotels have been struggling through the pandemic. But what about those who provide the food they serve?

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For Stu Simmons, owner of local company Seafood Connection, helping to create a fine dining experience for others is everything. And he goes to great lengths to ensure it.

“The items that we have you can’t find in supermarkets or big box stores” said Simmons. “They’re very, very unique and they’re from around the world. What were kind of known for is searching the seven seas, or as we like to say there’s actually 100 seas that we search.”

Simmons started Seafood Connection in the mid 80’s after graduating from the University of Hawaii.

“We’re Hawaii’s largest distributor of shellfish and crustaceans,” said Simmons. “That’s lobster and crab, shrimp scallops. We also have a large line of smoked salmon caviar, even gourmet items like escargot and truffles, truffle oil. We’ve been very very successful. We are supplying the very best restaurants and best resort hotels throughout the islands.”

Unfortunately many of those hotels remain closed, and the restaurants greatly diminished. As a result his sales office is mostly empty and his delivery trucks, with the familiar lobster logo on the side spend more time parked than they do on the road.

“It’s so sad,” he said. “It’s been devastating to the restaurant industry in the tourism industry. All my friends, all the chefs and these restaurant owners and hotel owners, I really feel for them. Of course we’ve suffered a long with them, and it’s terrible”.

So now in an effort to keep the company moving forward he’s taking his business online. For the first time in nearly 40 years he’s making his product line available to the general public at the same wholesale prices he would charge the best fine dining restaurants.

“We’re wholesalers,” Simmons said. “We’ve always sold to restaurants and hotels and will continue to do that. But like everybody we’ve had to pivot. So this is a great opportunity for a lot of residents to get great seafood at wholesale prices.”

It’s not just any seafood.

“These are some products from around the world,” he explained. “From Europe to Russia to South America to New Zealand and Australia. One of my favorite products are Hokkaido scallops. These are sashimi grade so you can eat them raw. And then a product it’s one of our all-time favorite is the Merus cut king crab portions. We have some very, very unique products that will wow you.”

They will deliver that package of wow no matter how big or small right to your doorstep. Something Simmons never imagined he’d be doing.

It is something he says he and many others need to do now as a matter of survival.

“What’s most sad is our people,” he shared. “We’ve had to let go on furlough and layoff so many people. It’s really, really hard. Not only for us as a company that hard on the people in their families. I’m just hoping that we can recover real soon.”

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