While fishing for the California Groundfish Collective in Morro Bay, California, Rob and Tiffani Seitz founded South Bay Wild, an effort to vertically integrate their business to include catching, processing and selling seafood directly to customers.
A year after relocating to Astoria with their three children and trawler, South Bay, the family opened the next evolution of their business, South Bay Wild Seafood Market & Restaurant, in the Mary & Nellie Building on Ninth Street downtown.
“There’s a lot of inconsistency in the fishing industry, and also there isn’t a retirement in the fishing industry,” Tiffani Seitz said. “We kind of did this for one thing to educate the public, and to help on the financial side.”
The market sources seafood from Rob Seitz’s trawler and from other boats and processors. They offer fresh, smoked and mixed seafood out of a display case in the back of their storefront. The restaurant in front offers fried fish specialties, chowders and other dishes. An upstairs bar has beer, wine and nautically themed cocktails.
The decor is steeped in maritime and fishing history. Signaling flags hang in the front windows. A black cod pod has been turned into a chandelier. Counters and tabletops come from bin boards used to separate catches on a boat.
“We’re trying to represent the different fisheries,” Tiffani Seitz said of the nets, pots, buoys and other tools of the fishing trade on display.
A sign from boatbuilder The Beebe Co. hangs above the upstairs bar, where fish nets help form the railings around the dining area. A salvaged door from the New Carissa, a freighter that ran aground near Coos Bay in 1999, sits in a back storage room waiting to be displayed.
Rob Seitz , an Alaska native, moved to the North Coast in 1992 after oil from the Exxon Valdez spill affected Cook Inlet where he had fished. Tiffani Seitz worked in the local restaurant industry and by 2009 earned a welding certificate from Clatsop Community College, later teaching courses to high schoolers.
The two left in 2011 for Morro Bay, where they had a chance to buy a fishing boat and be a part of the California Groundfish Collective, an effort to sustainably harvest fish populations that had collapsed along the state’s coastline. After purchasing their vessel and starting South Bay Wild in 2013, the couple began processing their own catches, selling directly to restaurants and markets and even sending live seafood to restaurateurs around San Francisco.
“We founded South Bay Wild to get vertically integrated to help pay for the new sustainability measures,” Rob Seitz said.
But the couple eventually found the fishery in California financially unsustainable and left the collective, moving back to Astoria last year. They saw a sign advertising rental space in the Mary & Nellie Building, where Marcus and Michelle Liotta had recently begun a restoration and recruitment of tenants after buying the ailing downtown landmark.
The seafood market opens Tuesdays, and the restaurant Wednesdays. On Sundays, if Rob Seitz is in from fishing for shrimp and groundfish, the family takes over the restaurant, making fish tacos.
“It seems like it gives us more control over a roller-coaster industry,” Rob Seitz said of running the market and restaurant.
The family is still finishing out the restaurant and expanding into a storefront next door. They’re holding off on a grand opening until early October, when their fishing friends will be done with the salmon season in Alaska.