US supplier Boston Sword & Tuna (BST) used to think the 33,000-square-foot building it moved into on Seafood Way, in south Boston, in 2001, was roomy enough, but not anymore.
Driven by an ever-increasing line of seafood products and the success of its expanding sales team, the 46-year-old processor and distributor has grown 50% in the last five years and now has 104 workers. The company needs the new 48,000-square foot building it has purchased a half mile away from its current structure, Michael Scola, BST’s president and controller, told Undercurrent News.
“And besides, when you consider the stairwells and bathrooms, [the old space] really is only 27,000 sq. ft.,” he adds.
BST's new environs are part of a 200,000 square foot seafood processing complex in a 6.5-acre waterfront property in Raymond L. Flynn Marine Park. Pilot Development Partners, leased the land from Massport, Boston's port authority, more than a year ago and informed the city of its plans to build the complex, along with a 300-car garage, just before the holidays.
Eden Milroy, PDP’s president, said he hopes construction will begin this summer. His firm has done work for other seafood interests in Boston, helping to develop the New Boston Seafood Center and also Legal Sea Foods’ quality control center in the Marine Park area.
"It's true that the seafood industry is not what it used to be," Milroy told Undercurrent. "It used to be an industry that relied on fishing boats going out to Georges Bank and coming back with tons of fish for seafood processors. There are fewer seafood companies than there used to be, but the seafood companies still around today have adapted to a worldwide supply of fish and they are doing really well."
BST's new location is expected to be ready by mid-2019, keeping the company less than three miles from Logan International Airport, which conveniently suits its recently launched online order and delivery service. Though it still remains a small percentage of the company's sales, BST now sends products directly to consumers as far away as California.
Scola said he plans on using the added space to further expand his product offerings.
BST is typical of a lot of seafood companies in that it is a multi-generational family run firm that has grown to meet demand. As Michael Scola and the company website explain, the business traces its roots to Tito Anthony Scola, a Sicilian fisherman, who came to America in the last century and continued lumping boats on the Boston Fish Pier. After also working on the pier as a boy, Paul P. Scola, Tito's son, partnered with Roland Harrington, in 1972, to form R&P Seafood/Shellfish, a seafood brokerage firm.
BST was opened by Michael Scola in 2003 as a separate business, but it merged with R&P in 2007. Six members of the Scola family now work at BST.
Though lobster has recently moved into the top four of items sold by BST, the company's hottest product comes from the coldest part of Norway. "Perfekt Salmon" is the brand name BST has given the fish it imports from an undisclosed group of salmon farmers in the northern part of that country.
"Our fillets are cut pre-rigor in Norway and flown to our facility the very same day, where we remove the pin bones in-house, custom trim each fillet, grade, and pack our fresh product," the company boasts.
But BST's president credits the continued addition of sales staff with experience selling different species the most for adding to his sales totals.
"Every time we add a division, it has helped grow Boston Sword and Tuna. If we add species, we don't have to add new customers because our existing customers are buying more," Michael Scola said.
But offering new products has added customers, too, he added.
In particular, Scola notes the addition, in 2012, of Larry Dore, a general manager at Globe, a large Boston distributor with a strong amount of experience in groundfish fillets, as helping to boost growth. Dore is now a partner in the firm and manages BST’s groundfish division. His son, Larry Jr., has also joined the company.
BST won’t be the only seafood player in its new Boston neighborhood. The adjacent garage structure is expected to include a 2,500 square-foot space that will double as a restaurant and seafood shop, according to a recent article in the Boston Globe. The building may also accommodate a longshoremen’s union. Plus, Millennium Partners and Stavis Seafoods are developing a 6.8-acre site in the area, and Cape Cod Shellfish & Seafood plans a 3-acre site next door.
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