Made in Jacksonville: Beaver Street Fisheries, Inc.


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.

Published July 31, 2013 in Neighborhoods - MetroJacksonville.com





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.





Exploring the Facilities


An aerial view of the Beaver Street viaduct in 1953. The Jacksonville Farmer's Market and A&P's produce operations are on the left. On the right, A&P's Southeastern headquarters (now BSF).

Beaver Street Fisheries' Jacksonville operations occupy several blocks just north of the Beaver Street viaduct. Of interesting note, the facility dates back to the 1920s and for many years served as the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company's (A&P) Southeastern headquarters, which included a bakery, coffee plant and dry storage warehouse. A&P's produce packing operations were located in the Jacksonville Farmer's Market across the street.

In 1968, A&P moved all but their coffee plant to other facilities, mainly to a new Northside warehouse (that subsequently was occupied by Movsovitz Produce and its acquirer, Freshpoint Produce, a division also of Sysco). That same year, BSF bought the front of its existing property, Public Quick Freezing & Cold Storage, Inc..  In 1980, BSF purchased the A & P portion of the site and began using A&P's former offices in 1984. Touring the facility, the former operations of A&P can be seen, despite the addition of several new structures over the years. For example, building placement and shapes are defined by the location of old rail docks (one of which still sports A&P signage) that once ran through the property.  

Furthermore, the faint scent of coffee still exists in BSF's dry storage warehouse, which was originally constructed by the Wade Farris & Wade Company in 1925.  For nearly 60 years, it was utilized by A&P as a coffee roasting plant, packing under the "8 O'clock" brand.  Around 1990, that operation ceased production and was consolidated into a plant in Maryland. Also, while A&P's bakery, which was built in 1932, no longer stands, the footprint of the larger 30,255 square-foot freezer that replaced it in 2000 is nearly identical. Another BSF production facility expansion in 2003 is shaped by the pattern of rail lines that once ran through the site. Lastly, the 1920s-era buildings still standing on site, the coffee plant, offices, and the unused PQF storage structure, form an L-shape that was once defined by a street intersection, which originally ran through the site.
 
In the future, more investment in the form of cold storage space could be on its way at BSF's West Beaver Street location. A potential location for this structure could be the 1920s Reid Brother's warehouse, once occupied by Public Quick Freezing & Cold Storage. This structure is currently not used, due to it being functionally obsolete for today's needs.


Former A&P rail docks running between BSF warehouses


Inside a warehouse formerly used by A&P as a coffee roasting plant


A look at BSF’s on-site USDA meat processing facility


Packaging lobster tails.


Packaging lobster tails.


A look inside a BSF storage freezer facility.


Established in 1979, BSF's Sea Best Brand has grown to become one of the top three seafood brands in the country.



Conclusion


The Jacksonville Farmer's Market in 1938.

Beaver Street is one of the area’s oldest thoroughfares, known to many as US 90.  The roadway is an original segment of the Old Spanish Trail, which connected Jacksonville with Tallahassee and Pensacola, and for a while, was named Enterprise Street.  After the Great Fire of 1901, this corridor became a critical focal point during Jacksonville's era of industrial might.  While many local turn-of-the-century urban core industrial and wholesale districts have become obsolete and largely abandoned, Beaver Street continues to live with major operations such as BSF, CSX, Winn-Dixie, Load King, Main Metal Recycling, Preferred Freezer Services, White Wave Foods and others that significantly contribute to the city's tax base and economic might.



Despite continued private sector investment, as seen with BSF's recruitment of Preferred Freezer Services, and its role as a downtown gateway from the west, the current condition of Beaver Street creates a negative perception of the area that doesn’t match reality but is enough to discourage many from seeking opportunities in one of the best locations in the region, given its proximity to the convergence of two of the nation’s top two transportation corridors, I-95 and I-10.

From Pittsburgh's Strip District to Detroit's Eastern Market area, corridors similar to Beaver Street in peer communities throughout the country are promoted to the outside world as economic assets, directly leading to more economic opportunity for their respective communities.  As we continue to navigate the puzzle of downtown, urban core revitalization, diversity and connectivity between walkable neighborhoods, Beaver Street should play a critical and prominent role in that process.


Looking west down Beaver Street near the intersection with King Street in 1953.

Article by Ennis Davis


This article can be found at: https://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2013-jul-made-in-jacksonville-beaver-street-fisheries-inc


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