- Miriam Sitz
- Fresh wares at Groomer
A family business since the late 1800s, San Antonio-based Groomer Seafood is one of the largest seafood distribution companies in Texas. Owners and brothers Rick and Mike Groomer descend from a long line of fishmongers, boasting origins in shrimping on one side of the family and fishing on the other. Eighty-five percent of the business is wholesale, with retail sales to the seafood-loving public accounting for the rest.
“Seafood comes to us from around the world, daily,” said Rick Groomer. “We sell 1,500 seafood items … items that we can catch year-round, and others, only two weeks a year.” Most products arrive in San Antonio within 24 hours of being shipped, but even seafood from the most remote of locations — the Maldives, New Zealand, South Africa — arrives within 48 hours.
Buyer and warehouse foreman Frank Monsivais works with hundreds of suppliers, from large commercial operations to fishermen who’ve sold to Groomer for 50 years. Sales staff members call on executive chefs of restaurants, taking preorders and special requests. Supply varies seasonally, but employees know the details of origin down to the vessel for every item available.
An increasing number of consumers prefer wild fish, akin to grass-fed beef or organic produce, to farm-raised, though Groomer noted that the latter have increased dramatically in quality over the past 30 years. Loch Duart Scottish salmon, for example, eat a GMO-free diet based on that of wild salmon, live in farming sites that are left fallow (clear of fish) every third year, and are stocked in low density (98.5 percent water to 1.5 percent fish).
The warehouse is open to the public six days a week from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. For the 75 to 100 employees, however, the day begins much earlier. Workers arrive as early as 4 a.m. and some shifts last until 9 or 10 at night.
“We’re a full line processor,” explained Groomer, “meaning most fish is delivered to us in the round, the way it came out of the water.”
The product is deboned, processed to the specifications of each order, rinsed, weighed, boxed in ice, labeled, and finally staged on shipping pallets where it awaits pickup. On a slow week, 170,000 to 180,000 pounds of fish pass through the Groomer warehouse. On a busy week, as many as 200,000 pounds.
The retail operation serves the general public, selling fresh seafood and stocking specialty items from wild boar sausage and quail to sushi accouterments.
“Everything is cut on the spot,” said retail associate Ernest Moya. “You walk in and need four fillets of salmon, six ounces each, with the skin on? OK. It’s totally customizable.”
Groomer attributes some of his business’ retail success to the novelty and excitement of personally selecting your dinner.
“People can see us cut fish in the warehouse and pick product that’s just walking in the door,” said Groomer. “We’ll fillet it right there in front of them and they get a show.”
9801 McCullough Ave