By RYAN KING
RAMEA – In the age of the pandemic many businesses have adapted by offering customers curbside pickup. The convenience and added safety has made this particular shopping option popular. Labrador Gem Seafoods has recently found success offering curbside pickup, which started on Oct. 27. Owner Danny Dumaresque is pleased with the response from consumers.
Dumaresque has been marketing and processing seafood products for 24 years.
“We had two other processing plants on the Quebec-Labrador border for 15, 16 years, until 2013. Eight years ago, we sold those two facilities to the Barry Group, and the company now has been focusing on our Ramea processing facility and we are certainly happy with the progress that we’ve made down there, and look forward to continuing to build on what we’re doing with that multispecies operation. Right now, we are doing a variety of shellfish and finfish in Ramea that are feeding into our markets throughout the world, but primarily in North America,” explained Dumaresque.
On the West coast, products are currently selling out of Ramea, and sometimes make their way out to other larger centres. There is also a curbside pickup store in St. John’s.
“If people get interested, then we certainly can make some of their products available in the Corner Brook area. In particular, we’ve sold to Corner Brook and Stephenville there through drop off through the Burgeo bus, or sometimes through our wholesale stores there. But by and large, the only way that you can get our products, 24/7 almost, is through the curbside pickup store that we just opened here in St. John’s.”
Labrador Gem Seafoods has spent the last year developing the new packaging and processing equipment, and launched a new website: labradorgemseafoods.ca.
“We’re looking forward to the next few months when we will assess the data that comes from that, then a path forward, either in different parts of the province, (or) off the island for the same kind of activity,” shared Dumaresque.
“Right now, we are not taking on the delivery aspect of this business, but it’s not something that I would rule out. But as you can appreciate, being able to reliably move frozen product across the provinces is challenging, and we won’t be doing that unless we have a dedicated delivery service in place, which as I said, I wouldn’t rule out, but it requires a significant amount of planning and some other investment.”
The response to the curbside pickup service has taken some adjustment said Dumaresque.
“It’s a little bit foreign to me, because, you know, at 11:30 last week, when we first put this out, I got a sound on my cell phone and I said to myself, ‘I wonder which fisherman is inquiring about whatever now?’ Because that happens in this business all hours, day and night, but when I checked my phone message, it was actually an order. So it was different, but nice to know that these days the technology allows somebody, anywhere, at any time, to place an order.”
Dumaresque was prompted to take a chance on curbside pickups after people on social media liked the look of his products but couldn’t find them in stores.
“I often posted some of our products online and it never failed that, when I did that, there would be a number of people come back and say ‘Looks yummy. Where can I get it?’ And of course, I had reached out to the supermarkets there, and you know, we never had very much response. It’s almost impossible to get your products on the supermarket shelf. And if you do, then certainly they have significant margins that affect the sales. So that was one thing that motivated me.”
Dumaresque saw other businesses adapt during the pandemic.
“I believe there is a significant market everywhere now for people to go and purchase food, and many other things, and be able to avoid lineups in stores or any possible exposure to COVID by having a curbside pickup facility,” said Dumaresque. “It’s a very simple but important business model that I wanted to try out.”
With the new curbside pickup service a growing success, the company has created new jobs and an increase in work availability for existing employees.
“We are, again, only in the early stages, but we have 12 people in that Ramea fish plant that have been focused on getting to understand the new equipment and the technology involved in producing it, and then taking the products and changing the form of the product to what we now have. So there’s a dozen people in Ramea that have received significant extra work as a result of that, and I have one, a co-ordinator here in St. John’s, to execute and manage the facility here.”
Over the next few months, Dumaresque will be looking carefully at the demand to assess any future growth for Labrador Gem Seafoods.
“We will get to see exactly what demand there is, and based on that, we will then go back to the plant and say, ‘OK, let’s continue with the same dedicated human resources and equipment here,’ and we either stay with it or add on to more staff here in St. John’s, and if we expand across to other parts of the island, of course, you will see jobs in each of those locations.”