After nearly 30 years in business, Hooked Seafood will permanently close when its stocks run out.
Hooked Seafood, a fresh and processed seafood company, sells to both local restaurants and individual customers.
Current owner Brad Robbins, who bought the business last year, said that he felt that he wasn’t able to serve his customers quickly enough. The problem? Finding enough employees to keep things moving.
“It wasn’t the employees I had, it was the employees I didn’t have,” Robbins said in an interview Monday. “The tourist industry has a lot cooler jobs that pay a lot more money,” he said.
He said that he wasn’t able to find enough employees to keep up the volume necessary to turn a profit in the local seafood industry. There was “enough to cover expenses but not to make money,” he said.
Hooked Seafood was originally started by Horst Schramm who sold the business in 2015. Schramm remained involved in the business even after selling it, acting as a friend and mentor to Robins. Schramm sold the business to serial Juneau entrepreneur Tracy LaBarge (Tracy’s Crab Shack, SALT Alaska, McGivney’s Sports Bar and Grill) who sold the business to Robbins.
Hooked provided seafood to some of LaBarge’s restaurants even after she sold the business.
LaBarge said in a phone interview with the Empire that Robbins had done a great job in a “tough industry.”
Finding enough employees has been an issue for many businesses in Juneau, LaBarge said.
Robbins said that his business was not large enough to recruit from outside the Juneau area.
“For the local kids,” he said, “there’s more opportunity for more money.”
Additionally, as a seasonal business, Robbins wasn’t able to offer year-round employment. Robbins employed about four employees but in order to deliver the service he wanted, needed about seven or eight.
On top of not being able to find as many employees as he would’ve liked, Robbins said that business from private yachts in nearby Auke Bay was down from last year.
“That really was a shot in the arm last year,” he said. “Chefs were coming in and buying fish, and I really didn’t see that this year,” he said.
Despite being dismayed at his business closing, Robbins said he felt confident that he had enough connections and reputation in the state to find new employment.
“At this point I’m focused on packing up and making sure my obligations are satisfied, my inventory is moving as much as it can be,” he said.
When the business closes he said, “I’ll take a few weeks for myself, take a deep breath, get some rest.”
Robbins said that one of the reasons he bought the business was to be able to move back to Juneau and spend time with friends and loved ones.
“That hasn’t really happened,” he said.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.