“I'm trying to explain to them [the restaurants] that the GFS's of the world will be fine, but it's me and the farmer that delivers your milk that are going to be in trouble."

Coastal Local Seafood delivers fresh seafood twice weekly from Boston to local restaurants including a pair of German Village staples, The Sycamore and Skillet, and La Tavola in Grandview. Owner Ian Holmes says the Columbus-based supplier’s weekly orders dropped from the usual $8,000 to $550 this week after Gov. Mike DeWine ordered the closure of restaurants to prevent the spread of Covid-19 across Ohio.

“The truck from Boston costs $400 and I still have to purchase the fish,” Holmes says. “It’s worse than I thought it was going to be, to be honest. People are trying to figure out what they’re going to do.”

Farm-to-table restaurants and their local suppliers are proving to be among the hardest hit by measures being taken to battle the novel coronavirus. Following DeWine’s order Holmes says he received a flurry of calls from worried restaurant industry contacts. For now, clients are slimming down their menus to avoid wasting product. Holmes is waiting to hear how restaurants will choose to move forward and is concerned about how a long-term shutdown would impact his company and other fresh suppliers.

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“I’m trying to explain to them [the restaurants] that the GFS’s of the world will be fine, but it’s me and the farmer that delivers your milk that are going to be in trouble,” he says.

Under normal circumstances, Coastal Local Seafood supplies restaurants that can build menus based on whatever seafood is available that day. On Mondays and Wednesdays, Holmes starts getting texts at 5:30 a.m. from Boston piers about the fresh catch of the day. He forwards the information to nearly 40 local chefs and starts taking orders. The seafood arrives in Columbus the following morning, and Holmes and his drivers spend Tuesdays and Thursdays making about 25 deliveries a day.

His two employees are not working this week because order volume did not justify the use of three trucks.

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Holmes says he is working to keep business flowing, even if there is little money to be made, hoping to maintain clients and keep his drivers employed. In one creative solution, he has added a home delivery option, advertising on social media for a new $65 “Small Business Survival Pack” with fresh sea scallops, shrimp, mussels and cod fillets. 

“We only make about $10 on each box but I need to get weight on these trucks coming in right now, and I actually really want people to have access to it,” he says. “If we get 25 of them and make a couple hundred bucks, I can pay drivers to deliver them to people’s houses.”

Holmes is among vendors slated to open a storefront this spring in the new North Market Bridge Park where he would employ six people.

Mary Sterenberg is a freelance writer for Columbus CEO.