Made in Jacksonville: Beaver Street Fisheries, Inc.

July 31, 2013 6 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

West Beaver Street is a major economic center of activity in Jacksonville that most urban core advocates tend to overlook. In our desire to expose and promote this economic asset, here is a behind-the-scenes look at one of the corridor's major employers: Beaver Street Fisheries, Inc.

Beaver Street Fisheries, Inc., History

Beaver Street Fisheries' original retail fish store in 1950. Image courtesy of Beaver Street Fisheries, Inc.

What started off as a small West Jacksonville retail fish market has grown into a major company that is a leading importer, manufacturer, and distributor of frozen seafood, meat, and other food products from the USA and around the world. Beaver Street Fisheries, Inc. (BSF), offers one of the largest seafood selections in the United States to customers that include retail grocers, food service distributors, and other large users of their products.

An affiliate, Tropic Seafood, is the largest lobster tail and seafood processor in the Bahamas, processing and packaging Island Queen and Island Prince brand lobster tails, conch and other seafood products for global markets at its state-of-the-art plant in Nassau.

As part of its seafood line, BSF offers a full selection of retail seafood specialty and value added items produced at their Jacksonville processing plant under the Sea Best brand. Established in 1979, BSF's Sea Best Brand has grown to become one of the top three seafood brands in the country. BSF also carries a full line of beef, pork, poultry, lamb products, and offers custom meat cutting through their HF’s (named for company patriarch, Harry Frisch) Outstanding Brand, processed in BSF’s on-site USDA meat processing facility.

The story of BSF dates back to World War II when the Frisch family escaped Austria following its invasion by Adolph Hilter, eventually finding their way to Jacksonville. In 1950, the family opened a small, retail, fresh fish store at 2677 West Beaver Street called Beaver Street Fisheries. Together with their mother, brothers Alfred and Hans Frisch worked around the clock to expand their business. With a single truck, they procured a variety of fish from both the Gulf and Atlantic coasts by night, delivering their product fresh to Jacksonville area hotels, restaurants, and grocery stores by day.  Soon, with the evolution of the food industry, BSF grew into a full line food service distributor serving the market from Orlando to Hilton Head, S.C., from their facilities in Jacksonville. BSF sold its Jacksonville-based food service distribution division to Houston-based Sysco Corporation in 1998. Sysco moved those operations to their Westside warehouse freeing up space for BSF to expand their seafood operations on Beaver Street.

Separately, In 1971, BSF acquired a lobster and seafood processing company in the Bahamas that became Tropic Seafood.  Paralleling the evolution of the Jacksonville business, the Bahamian seafood company gave birth to a second company, Bahamas Food Services, the largest food distributor in the Bahamas, just this year also becoming an affiliate of Sysco Corporation..

Between 2000 and 2003, nearly 70,000 square feet of freezer and production space was added to BSF’s Beaver Street facilities. Still in need of space  in 2006, Beaver Street took the opposite approach of what many companies in older areas of town do.  Instead of building a new facility on the outskirts of town, BSF teamed up with Preferred Freezer Services, a national cold-storage firm based in New Jersey, to construct a six story, 185,000 square-foot frozen food storage facility.  Located on the south side of the Beaver Street viaduct, this $28 million project resulted in the creation of 50 new jobs at an average annual salary of $40,000.

The Preferred Freezer Services construction also required the relocation to next door of a rebuilt and improved historic Jacksonville Farmer's Market, which had been previously acquired by BSF in 1986 and operates as a community service. An area landmark established at that location in 1938, Jacksonville Farmers Market is the largest and oldest public farmers market in Florida according to a recent State survey and the only farmers market open every day of the year in North Florida. Jacksonville Farmers Market attracts as many as 25,000 visitors a week and, is itself, an economic generator for the downtown area.  All of its vendors and farmers are local small and/or minority businesses.

Currently, BSF operates two divisions.  The seafood import/export distribution and processing division and an operation supporting full-line food service distribution to the Caribbean.  A major urban core employer, BSF supports a workforce of over 300. Many of BSF's employees live in the urban core neighborhoods adjacent to the processing plant which is surrounded by both State Enterprise and Federal Empowerment Zones.

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