Jon Alexis of TJ's Seafood Market on Expansion, The Fishing Industry and Lobsters that Need a New Home
Have you ever had to end a relationship with a vendor?
There's a difference in saying we'll never buy from a vendor again and sending a shipment back. But, yes, we have done both.
Sometimes we have vendors that tell us "Gosh, you guys are too picky. We don't have time to deal with you." More power to 'em. That's fine. Our vendors know we're picky but still like to do business with us. There are certain vendors we don't do business with because of dishonesty or inconsistent product.
How often do you work with small fishing outfits?
We're joined at the hip with small fishermen.
No one has more to lose from over-fishing than an independently owned seafood market. This is all we do. If the grocery store couldn't sell seafood, they make more money on their paper towels and Vogue magazines, but this is all we do. And small fishermen are the backbone of the industry. So, yes, we have fish where we know the name of the fisherman who caught it.
Tell me about your smoked fish.
We smoke salmon and halibut. We brine it overnight in garlic, bay leaves, brown sugar, white pepper, kosher salt and a couple other secret ingredients. Then we smoke it over hickory chips.
When I say smoked a lot of people think lox. That's a cold smoke. This is a hot smoke.
You're opening a new place on Oak Lawn. How long had you been looking to expand?
For about three years now. And it took us six months to negotiate the place. A seafood market is just a funny little space, we need a lot of things. So it was just difficult to work out.
Will it be exactly like this market?
Not exactly. People keep telling us they're so excited we're opening a "restaurant." Technically, it's not a restaurant. It's a seafood market with seats. Customers walk up and can take a pound of salmon home, or you can say, "Cook that salmon for me and give me two sides." But, it's different than a restaurant in that it's completely transparent. You'll see us see us cut it, grill it and serve it.
There won't be table service though?
There won't be table service.
Wine by the bottle and wine by the glass. The beer program is going to be really cool. We're getting all the regional beers from seafood areas. So, we're going to have Anchor Steam from San Francisco, Abita from New Orleans. Not necessarily craft beers, but the beer that you would get when you're in the region.