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Fish market to open in Farragut


The Shrimp Dock, a specialty fish market, is set to open March 15 in Aspen Square shopping center at 11124 Kingston Pike.

Although the outside of the store will not resemble The Shrimp Dock’s other West Knoxville location, 5210 Kingston Pike, the interior floor plan will be similar.

Paul Willis, founder of the Shrimp Dock chain, said he developed the floor plan while opening stores in Denver. Customers liked it, so he stuck with it. “It’s kind of user-friendly: we separate our frozen and fresh. It’s an easy way for customers to shop, and that’s really what you’re trying to do.”

“Groceries do just the opposite: they mix and move everything all around so you have to cover more of the store. They’re actually trying to sell you something that you don’t want. We try not to do that,” Willis said.

The floor plan Willis prides himself on groups similar items together and always has the same things in the same places. Customers know exactly where to go to find what they want.

Willis, originally from New Orleans, La., began fishing as a teenager. When he graduated high school at age 17, he bought a boat and began to fish commercially. By the time he was 19, Willis owned 12 boats and a processing plant. When the price of shrimp crashed, Willis decided to move to Denver and start selling seafood. The Shrimp Dock was born.

The Shrimp Dock’s headquarters was originally in New Orleans, but after Katrina, Willis moved the base to Bearden.

The Shrimp Dock is franchised under a use of name contract, which basically allows more autonomy to individual storeowners. “It’s more of a concept that we convey and teach to the new storeowner,” Willis said.

Willis and the Dock staff provide training to employees, connect them to The Shrimp Dock’s seafood providers and give them all of the chain’s recipes. Willis also is available for questions from Dock employees and storeowners.

“What we’re all about really is teaching and training people about how to display and how to receive the seafood. When the seafood comes in, you have to check every filet, every piece of fish, every whole fish, every oyster.

You have groceries and you have people behind the counters that have no idea at all. When the fish or shrimp comes in, they just receive it, defrost it, and they put it out. And groceries usually deal with a large frozen lot because they have a hard time dealing with fresh, and that’s something that we teach our people,” Willis said.

“We train and we teach people how to run a seafood market the right way,” he added.

Willis is not worried about competing with specialty grocery stores such as FreshMarket or EarthFare. “They don’t have trained staff,” Willis said. “They don’t buy the products we buy.”

The Shrimp Dock owns shrimp and snapper boats and is partner with other fishing companies. The company also is a partial owner of the DayBoat tuna company.

“These grocery stores and these high end markets, they can’t get their hands on what we have,” Willis said.

“I have boats that catch fish, and then it goes straight from my boats to my stores,” he added. According to Willis, for most grocery stores, the fish is caught, unloaded at a dock, bought by a distributor, sold to a wholesaler, and then delivered to the retailer. Willis said that by the time most grocery stores get seafood, it is four days old. His stores will not sell fish any older than 72 hours.

In addition to seafood, the Farragut location will offer high-end meat offerings, including 100 percent black angus beef, fine pork, duck and some game animals. All of this meat will be available pre-cut in vacuum-sealed packages.

Willis plans to have at least a “light opening” for the Farragut store by March 15. The manager of the new store will be Allen Shields, who has worked for The Dock for a year and who has been in the seafood business for 19.

For more information, visit www.shrimpdock.com.

 

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