Flying Fish Company Puts Big Impacts in Small Packages
As one of FoodHub's early adopters, Lyf Gildersleeve has a list of local connections almost as long as Flying Fish Company's first Portland storefront – a retrofitted bread delivery truck parked on a corner in Southeast Portland. And while his current location on Hawthorne Street isn't much bigger, Gildersleeve has managed to sell more than a half million dollars worth of product through the 176 square foot shack – to which he recently added a shipping container converted into a commercial kitchen and walk-in refrigerator. According to the Food Marketing Institute, that's on par with average sales per square foot of most grocery stores, which are normally 46,000 square feet per store.
To keep the shelves stocked and the product fresh, Gildersleeve builds working relationships with local farmers, ranchers and fishermen, and he finds them with FoodHub.
"One the great connections I had last year was with Copper River Fish Market for their sockeye," he said. "I ended up getting thousands of pounds from them last summer and will again this coming June."
Last year's list is impressive: 2,000 pounds of Copper River salmon, 2,000 pounds of Chinook salmon, 5,000 pounds of Oregon-caught tuna, 2,000 pounds of Dungeness crab, 2,000 pounds of bay shrimp, plus local pastured eggs, grassfed meats, local cheese, and other specialties like local Frog Eyes Wasabi. A sampling of FoodHub connections includes Rainshadow El Rancho, Chicken Scratch Farm, Provenance Farm, Reister Farms Lamb, Deck Family Farms, and Buchholz and Son Farms, LLC.
"We're fortunate here in Oregon – it's a pretty abundant place," said Gildersleeve, who moved to the Pacific Northwest to be closer to the region's burgeoning local food marketplace after opening his first Flying Fish location in Park City, UT.
He's not the first Flying Fish-monger: It's a family business. Flying Fish Co. was first started by his father, Craig Gildersleeve, in Sandpoint, ID. His sister Amber now runs the original shop after starting a third location in Durango, CO. After growing up in the business, Lyf understands the challenges farmers, fishermen and ranchers face when bringing their products to market. "When I buy something from a farmer or a fisherman I give them a check when they deliver," he said. "I take the risk and don't ask them to front it because I understand the need for cashflow."
While Oregon has a wide variety of products to choose from, buying them from family scale farms or direct from the fisherman can often be unpredictable. To continue stocking the shelves when seasonal products run dry, Flying Fish is expanding into house-made value-added products like smoked salmon, sauerkraut, soup stocks and crab and salmon cakes. Gildersleeve said he'll be looking to FoodHub to help stock that supply chain as well.
"I continue to find new stuff on FoodHub," he said. "And now that I'm starting to do more production it won't just be for fish connections. If I need cabbage or dill for my sauerkraut I'll get those connections through FoodHub too."
For Gildersleeve, buying local is more than just a business decision: He wants to provide his customers with the food he feeds the most important people in his life including wife Natalie, their toddler Juniper, and their newborn baby Miles. And although Flying Fish has experienced great success during the past year, Gildersleeve isn't planning major expansion, but rather focusing on helping his current employees leverage the company's success to construct small franchise operations of their own.
"The sustainability of the future will rely on the mom and pop shop," he said. "The reality is that making a living doesn't have to be a major operation, but it matters that your heartbeat is behind it."
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