Finding an Alaskan seafood store in Eden seems a bit like spotting a surf shop in Utah.
But it makes sense when you learn that decades ago, Eden-born Ernest Thomas left his hometown for Alaska, where he served as a government fishery health inspector for 22 years. When he retired, he came home determined to share the glories of Alaskan seafood.
The store, Exclusively Alaskan Good (8750 S. Main St. (Route 62), 345-8665) has been open since October, selling king crab, Dungeness crab, halibut, cod, scallops -- and of course, wild salmon. Non-fish Alaskan specialties like elk medallions, caribou burgers and reindeer sausage are there too.
It's a family affair: Ernest's daughter Adele has been running the store, while son Gordon will supply some of the wild sockeye and coho salmon sold there from his Shirleyville, Alaska, set-netting operation.
The Thomases are working to get an online shopping site set up. So far, much of the job has been explaining the allure of Alaskan seafood to people surprised to learn their specialty, Adele Thomas said.
How do you pitch prime Alaskan seafood in Erie County?
"Our prices are a little higher than if you were to go to Tops or Wegmans, but it's a higher quality. You know where it's coming from, all direct from the fishermen and processed here in the U.S."
So you're saying it tastes better.
"We'll only buy stuff when it's in season. Right now most of the king crab and stuff you can get is from '09. Last year's catch. Most places have not seen 2010 king crab yet -- but we have it. We buy everything fresh -- stuff that hasn't been sitting in freezers for months."
People are buying year-old crab? I guess looking at the seafood industry from the inside gives you some perspective.
"We also won't sell twice frozen -- fish that has been frozen whole, thawed out, cut up and then refrozen. We don't deal with any of that kind of stuff. We know where our stuff comes from."
How can buyers tell the difference?
"One of our biggest challenges here is educating people about the difference between the quality they're getting now and what we're bringing to them. A lot of the stuff you can buy around here is either farm raised, Atlantic caught or landlocked. The Atlantic Ocean is a lot dirtier. Farmed salmon is a lot fattier."
When people think about eating fish, many are interested for health reasons.
"It's all wild caught, which is a big plus. Another benefit of buying Alaskan seafood is that because the waters are really clean, Alaskan seafood is really low in mercury, toxins and PCBs. So eating Alaskan seafood is better for you."