Earlier in his life, Ryan Speckman lived on the North Carolina coast.
When he moved to the Raleigh area, he realized that there was very little access to fresh North Carolina seafood as soon as you moved inland. Speckman, along with Lin Peterson, founded Locals Seafood to change that.
Thanks to the vision of Speckman and Peterson, Raleigh now has a state-of-the-art fish processing facility.
Locals’ mission is to increase access to North Carolina seafood all across the state and do it in a way that supports the state economy and ensures the quality of the product. Locals buys its seafood from fishing boats based in North Carolina, delivers the product to Raleigh via truck and processes the food in-house with a supply chain fully inside state borders once the fish are caught.
Locals Seafood has enjoyed steady growth since its founding in 2010. Now, with the help of Increasing Meat Production, Efficiency and Capacity (IMPEC) grant funding from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Locals is enjoying exponential growth that will allow it to expand its offerings to new parts of the state.
Last September, Locals Seafood moved its fish processing and packing operations to a new facility at 1408 Corporation Parkway in Raleigh. The facility will continue to open in phases and should be completely done in six to nine months.
Right now, the facility is open for processing and packing. A retail counter should open to customers around March 1. Long-term plans include a kitchen that will allow Locals to offer value-added goods like shrimp sausages, crab cakes and tuna burgers to customers and wholesalers.
“This facility allows us to make a larger leap,” Speckman said. “We’re able to process way more fish, store way more product and send trucks to different corners of the state. We really want to focus our sales territory inside the state boundaries in North Carolina because there’s still a lot of ceiling before we get there and we still have a lot of opportunities we haven’t hit yet. This facility allows us to grow in a healthy way and get more seafood pumped inland and then out to other places in the state.”
The new building is almost 10,000 square feet of usable space with a refrigerator room of more than 1,100 square feet. The freezer room is 800 square feet with 20-foot tall walls, allowing Locals to store more product and fulfill larger orders. Fish processing areas will be viewable through windows from the glass lobby.
“Our average customer is going to get a more intimate look into what we do because everything is under one roof now,” Speckman said. “We have our processing and storage, we’ll have a small hospitality oyster bar component and retail where you can buy fresh or frozen fish. People will be able to see what our processing looks like. Most folks have never seen anything like it. Most of their seafood is either processed in China, or even if it’s processed domestically, it comes packaged as small filets. Here, you’ll be able to see that every fish has a different physiology.”
The new facility will also allow Locals Seafood to work with schools like Wake Tech Community College and N.C. State to educate students on how to cut and process fish properly.
“We can actually now bring people in-house and train them how to cut fish properly,” Speckman said. “What that does is it trains a whole workforce of folks that are going to be working in restaurants to know how to properly handle seafood. That’s huge because you don’t get that kind of training really anywhere, even in some of the highest culinary programs in the country. (Those schools have) been very excited about the opportunity to be able to send students here to see a real live seafood operation because they don’t have an opportunity inland. Before this, you had to go to the coast to see what we’ll have here.”
The new facility, which was largely made possible by IMPEC funding from the NCDA&CS, will enable Locals to become two to three times more productive, benefiting seafood lovers all across the state.
“This facility is going to expand access to North Carolina seafood, not just in the Triangle, but further west in the state and really expand access to this resource to more people in the state,” said Justin Pasfield, Locals Seafood CFO and partner. “Without the IMPEC grant, this would not have been possible. It has allowed us to invest in the proper facility, proper walk-in coolers, equipment, those type of things that make this a reality. With the trajectory we were on, we could not have pulled this off. It was very difficult to figure out not only how to find a building but put all this equipment in there. IMPEC made it possible for us to even make this dream a reality.”