August 6, 2013 – After ten years of selling seafood at farmer’s markets and through its CSS (Community Supported Seafood), H & H Fresh Fish has opened its first permanent shop at the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor. Heidi Rhodes and Hans Haveman leased the facility from a friend for a decade before taking ownership in May this year, but progress has been slow.
“The harbor put us on a three month lease,” says Rhodes. “We weren’t locked down on anything until July. It’s kind of a hold up because the building needs improvements. It needs new flooring. It needs new walls. We’re a small family business, so we’re not gonna dump thousands and thousands of dollars into something that’s not even guaranteed to be ours. It’s only been a month that we’ve been officially the owners and we can pull the trigger.”
“It doesn’t feel right to call it a store necessarily because it’s not pretty and nor will it ever be that sort of thing,” explains Rhodes. “Although it’s industrial and there are fishermen walking around, I think people really appreciate getting super fresh fish rather than something packaged behind a counter. It’s cool and nautical and neat and efficient.” In addition, H&H has recently certified its new facility as a commercial kitchen to prepare foods like ceviche and Hawaiian-style poke.
Along with the harbor facility comes the responsibilities of being resident fish buyer, which means that all fish caught in Santa Cruz is either purchased directly by H&H or is passed through the company to another vendor. “I think it’s a lot of responsibility and a lot of weight on our shoulders,” comments Rhodes, “But the fisherman seem to trust Hans. He really works to get them a good price. It feels like a family; there are fishermen that have been fishing for us forever. ”
Haveman has been fishing his entire life. He got a job on the Stagnaro boats when he was just twelve. His passion has taken him all over the world to countries like Australia and New Guinea, in addition to places closer to home such as Alaska, Washington, and Oregon. “He’s really got his head in the water a lot and has a really good outlook on local fishing,” says Rhodes, “There’s a lot of doomsday talk, but it’s actually doing pretty well here in Central California.”
Haveman and Rhodes prefer to support local fishermen, but in order to serve customers year-round, H&H supplements Santa Cruz catch with sustainably caught seafood from other places in the U.S., like ono from Hawaii or shrimp from the Texas Gulf. “Sometimes there’s hardly any local fish unless it was previously frozen, but people still wanna eat their fish. I think as long as people have a source they can feel good about, they keep shopping.”
The shop—located right under Johnny’s Harborside restaurant—currently stocks a variety of locally caught fish including rockfish, lingcod, salmon and halibut, available whole and filleted at about the same prices as their farmer’s market stand. Despite the additional work of their new venture, Heidi and Hans still plan to sell at 18 farmer’s markets a week and to continue their CSA.
H & H Fresh Fish Market – 493A Lake Ave, Santa Cruz – 831.46.1576