When the novel coronavirus pandemic forced Anchorage area restaurants to close their doors, Copper River Seafoods scrambled quickly into retail mode, selling frozen portioned inventory at bargain prices to people suddenly facing food insecurity.
“Due to restaurants shutting their doors, the local wholesale market demand dropped almost overnight,” said Jim Kostka, marketing director for Copper River Seafoods.
With the market shifting rapidly, Kostka quickly devised a plan that would move frozen portioned inventory while helping a lot of people who had suddenly lost their jobs.
“Since CRS had inventory that was destined to the local restaurants, we cut prices to respond to the local demand and give back to our community,” he said.
His plan began to take shape when the first three restaurant owners began to lay off staff, who then applied for unemployment. “We wondered what we could do to make a difference in the community,” Kostka said.
“What started with literally three texts to see how we could help various colleagues that lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic went viral in Anchorage,” he said. “Due to restaurants shutting their doors the local wholesale market demand dropped almost overnight. Since CRS had inventory that was destined to the local restaurants, we cut prices to respond to the local demand and give back to our community.”
CRS put together 15-pound boxes at $5 a pound ($75 a box) of portioned frozen individually wrapped halibut to assist the community.
Word went out on a Friday evening and soon his phone was in meltdown mode through the weekend and through the following Tuesday.
By 10 a.m. Monday they had sold 2,600 pounds of halibut portions.
“I read about it on Facebook,” said Sue Perry, a special education teacher’s aide, who made some quick phone calls of her own to others who wanted to share a box of seafood.
“I think it is absolutely wonderful. It helps them to empty their freezers and prepare them for this year’s fish, and it keeps people employed. It’s a win-win,” she said.
“I will go back for more,” Perry said, “and I will share. We need to take care of our neighbors. You can expect government this and that, but at the end of the day we need to take are of our neighbors. It’s protein and it’s Alaska fish. The restaurants are not buying the fish, so we get to enjoy it, and this will help the fishermen,” she said.
To stay compliant with the social distancing regulations CRS is using scheduled pick up via a drive through pick up stand for afternoon hours at their corporate campus location on 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage.
Along with each box was a copy of the “How to spot the symptoms” federal document on the COVID-19 virus.
“The response was amazing and the thank yous are still coming in,” Kostka said. “I have several customers that have a hug on hold for me for when we get through this for the positive impact we have with our offering to our community. We will continue to offer a weekly 10 pound variety box of the west seafood in the world, as bell as smoked and bulk orders, as a means to get healthy protein out to feed our Alaska neighbors and loved ones at bulk/wholesale prices and to keep our commercial fishing industry viable,” he said.
The weekly offerings will be posted online at www.alaskawildseafoodmarket.com, the company’s new ecommerce site, established specifically for bulk and wholesale prices.
Meanwhile, said Kostka, his new mantra is “Let us help you make your home, your new favorite restaurant featuring wild Alaskan seafood!”