Merino’s Seafood Market feels spare – concrete floors and white walls. A small window looks into its factory, where workers process fish they pull from big plastic tubs of a catch just unloaded at the dock a block away. The shop is short on the knickknacks and saltwater flotsam and jetsam in a lot of beach town shops, but long on quality seafood, offering a remarkably lush assortment of fresh and prepared products, from smoked salmon and canned tuna to clam chowder and oyster shooters.
And the kind of seafood offered changes with the seasons, and with people’s tastes.
When Merino’s got a request for a jalapeño canned tuna, they developed that recipe. Then they made a habañero tuna for those who liked more than just a little zip. After that, they’ve stretched into a cilantro lime flavor. All the recipes are developed and guarded by Bob Moore and Rose Donovick, canning and store managers, respectively.
“When we’re testing a new recipe everyone comes out to try it,” said Mike Cornman, vice president of the company. “Friends, family, everyone comes out.”
This time of year, many customers are buying for the holidays, sending care packages to relatives. The shop ships orders all over the country and boasts next-day shipping. A growing part of the business is online sales from their website: merinoseafoods.com.
The cannery can pump out 3,000 cans each day of local, dolphin-safe tuna (and clams, crab, salmon, oysters), and it runs year-round, stockpiling seafood for the busy summer months and giving in-the-know-locals a place to get holiday stocking stuffers in the winter. It’s also where folks can get fresh crab – even pick their favorites out of a tank – for a special dinner.
“We will have crab by Christmas,” Cornman said. It’s a custom for many Pacific Northwest families to have crab at holiday parties and for dinners on Christmas and Christmas Eve – since December is also the traditional beginning of the local crab season.
Ever since Merino’s was acquired by Westport Seafood, a seafood wholesaler, recently, Cornman said the market has been in a constant state of being upgraded – new counters, new canning equipment (coming soon), and even barcodes and a web site have been boosting the venerable market’s efficiency and profile. Cornman said he hopes to have a full fledged restaurant to serve locally caught fish and chips, along with chowder, by summer. As things stand in Grays Harbor, Westport may be the fifth largest port by landed catch on the West Coast, but there aren’t very many local seafood restaurants.
“We know that once people try our seafood, they will buy it again and again,”
Cornman said. It’s just up to him to make buying it again as easy as a mouse click.
Gift packs are a popular item, especially around the holidays. Merino’s shop offers a wide variety of pre-packaged boxes, as well as individual cans to make your own custom gift combination.
Everything is available online as well including fresh and frozen seafood.