Fishtown is about to get even fishier! Bryan Szeliga, 46, is almost ready to open his new fish and seafood shop at the old Belgrade Deli at 339 Belgrade Street in an already sizzling neighborhood of Fishtown. It will soft open on Monday, January 10, with a Grand Opening planned for Thursday, January 20.
A 15 year veteran in the culinary field and, most recently, in the commercial seafood industry, Szeliga launched Fishtown Seafood during the pandemic in September 2021 to provide Philadelphians with ultra-high-quality and thoughtfully sourced seafood and fish. The home delivery service, which debuted during the Fishtown Neighbors Association Second Sunday Farmers Market, was an instant hit and confirmed that consumers demand better quality fish to use in their own homes. The opportunity to secure the old Belgrade Deli to open a retail shop was too good to pass up.
"Fishtown Seafood will not just "sell seafood," Szeliga emphasized. "Instead, we offer our customers memorable culinary seafood experiences, which means when a customer comes into the shop, we provide products that allow a home chef to prepare a restaurant-quality meal at home. We not only have the highest-quality seafood and aquaculture products available, but we also have the products to compose an excellent seafood meal from start to finish."
In addition to fish and seafood, the shop will also sell cooking equipment, sauces, tasting journals (for oysters), rice, and more, including plant-based seafood—yes, it's a thing!—and a wide selection of tinned fish - which has become quite popular in Philadelphia during the pandemic.
Szeliga explained, "The goal is to offer a whole in-person shopping experience that will include using the space to educate customers on sustainability, products we carry, and culinary techniques."
Szeliga went to culinary school in Portland, Oregon, and trained under James Beard Award-winning chefs Gabriel Rucker and Vitaly Paley. He ran some kitchens in PDX before he and his wife Emily, a Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology, moved to Charlottesville, VA. Then, her post-doctoral career brought her to Villanova, where they've settled in the Philadelphia area.
Shortly after moving here, he landed an account manager job at seafood importer Independence Fish Company, based in Plymouth Meeting, PA. Working under industry veterans Jonathon Goldstein and Norman Sarnoff fueled his passion for seafood, and he knew he wanted to forge his path in the seafood industry.
"I started Fishtown Seafood because I found that it is entirely too difficult for the consumer (home chef) to access the quality seafood and seafood-related products," Szeliga noted. "The Fishtown Seafood model is different; we don't want to sell fish; we want people to eat fish. The distinction might seem subtle, but it is enormous."
Szeliga's vision is to change the narrative and understanding of “fresh” seafood. He wants to provide customers a guilt-free and exceptional seafood culinary experience through low carbon footprint products that have never been flown on an airplane and are free of commonly used chemicals in the seafood industry like Sodium Tripolyphosphate and Carbon Monoxide.
"Many of our products are frozen or superfrozen at the time of processing to ensure the customer receives the ultimate freshness of the seafood," Szeliga underscored. "There is very little superfrozen product in the market, it is the highest quality product available, especially when it comes to sashimi quality product, and our customers are very lucky to have access to this product."
Superfreezing is an accelerated process in which fish is frozen immediately after it is harvested. It uses ultra-low temperatures to freeze fish solid in a matter of minutes or even seconds.
"I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, and once Covid hit, it put me in a position where it was time to take the leap and start a business. I am bringing Fishtown and Philly, a retail seafood shop like no other."
To start, Fishtown Seafood will be open Monday through Friday from 2:30 to 5:30 PM and on Saturdays from 10:00 AM to Noon.
Follow Fishtown Seafood on Instagram at @FishtownSeafood.
Marilyn Johnson is a freelance food and travel writer covering the food and drink scene of Philadelphia, South Jersey, and beyond. Food news: firstname.lastname@example.org. Travel tips: email@example.com.