Dock to Doorstep: Home Seafood Delivery

By Jonathan Wlasiuk

Dock to Doorstep: Home Seafood Delivery

The Dock to Doorstep Blog Series highlights stories from our supply chain


Dock to Doorstep: Home Seafood Delivery | Sitka Salmon Shares

High quality, wild seafood depends on fast delivery. Once we pull your fish out of our freezers and pack them with dry ice, the clock is ticking. We track multiple variables to determine how much dry ice is needed. Weather forecasts, traffic, holidays, the pandemic’s effect on labor, all affect how long it takes for your fish to get from our freezer to your front door. While third-party delivery services fulfill orders for most of our members, those of you close to our Midwest hubs have met our very own home-delivery drivers. With their help, we have built a homegrown delivery network that safely and quickly delivers highly perishable seafood so it arrives ready for your next dinner.

With hubs in the Twin Cities in the north, down to Madison and Galesburg, and east to Chicago, our home delivery team fulfills hundreds of shipments every day. Derek Cooley, our Transportation Manager, directs our delivery team. “I have 12 extremely hardworking people who comprise our home delivery operation,” Derek says. Derek knows this turf well because he grew up in the small Wisconsin town of Osceola, located on the Minnesota border.

“I spent 18 years working in transportation for one of the most globally-recognized package carriers,” Derek says. He enjoyed his position, but he jumped at the opportunity to bring his experience and talents to Sitka Salmon Shares in 2020. “I was excited about the prospect of finding a smaller company that was wholly committed to a cause,” Derek says. “I love the Midwestern roots of the company and the dedication to our members while simultaneously rewarding and challenging our employees.”


MADISON

“I was born and raised here in Galesburg, Illinois,” says home-delivery driver Justin Niles. Unlike Derek, Justin didn’t come to the company with a mountain of experience in transportation: he has three college degrees in fine arts. “I am a bass trombonist, but my specialty is in therapeutic recreation,” Justin says. For his senior project in college, Justin created community choirs to help children with asthma. “Singing can help with asthma, and through breathing exercises, we make somebody live a little more comfortably throughout their life,” Justin says.

Garver Feed Mill is home to our delivery hub in Madison, WI. Illustration by Libby Geboy.

Justin often logged hundreds of miles in a single day, sometimes spending hours alone in the delivery van. “I put on a lot of podcasts, and I like to listen to the local NPR station,” he says. “But when I start to get tired, being the musician I am, I sing in the car.”

When Justin isn’t singing jazz classics in his delivery vehicle, he enjoys interacting with members on his route around Madison, WI. Members have left him juice boxes, snacks, and even given him a scare during a Halloween delivery. “They like to wait until I get in the van and they come up and try to spook me,” Justin says while laughing.


Home Delivery Driver Justin Niles at our Madison delivery hub.

Dogs also present a challenge for any home-delivery drivers and Justin has his share of stories. Fortunately, most dogs have more bark than bite. Although they may bare their teeth, Justin says “they kind of melt like butter when you get out of the car. They just fall over and roll right over onto their belly.”


CHICAGO

Raul Robles loves to be outside. He tried a job as a produce manager working indoors and found it didn’t suit him. “I just couldn't handle being inside a place for so long,” Raul says. Before Raul joined our home-delivery team, he liked taking on jobs that kept him moving outdoors. Raul grew up in Mexico and brought with him the work ethic he grew up with as a kid. “When I was hired, I told Derek, ‘the more hours you want to give me, the better.’ I like long days,” Raul says.

Home Delivery Driver Raul Robles with a box fresh from the freezer.


What is a normal day like for a home-delivery driver? Raul prepares his apartment labels, recipe cards, and issues of The Catch the day before his shift. “I like being ahead of time always because you never know if there will be a roadblock or something to slow you down,” Raul says. Raul relied a lot on navigation apps to make his way through the city at first, but now he knows the streets of Chicago well, including the best place to stop for lunch. “I really like the street tacos they sell on 26th Street in Little Village,” Raul says. (Raul recommends the asada tacos if you are ever in the neighborhood).

Like Justin, Raul has become a familiar face for many of our members. “I have really nice conversations with our members,” Raul says. Recently he saw someone wave him down while he was in his delivery van only to discover that they wanted to know more about the company because of the art painted on the side. “The artwork on those vans really pop,” Raul says. He carries business cards because so many people stop to ask him about the company. 



EMPLOYEE SHARES

All full-time Sitka Salmon Shares employees receive a monthly share of seafood as an employment benefit and connection to our fishermen. Justin loves to use his share to smoke salmon and Pacific cod in his smoker and create fish jerky. Because he is also an avid hunter, Justin’s freezer space is limited. “I went deer hunting two weeks ago and ended up with my first eight-point buck with a bow,” Justin says.

Raul uses his share to create traditional Mexican dishes. “The best fish I’ve tried so far is lingcod,” Raul says. “I made fish tacos with it and some homemade pico de gallo and flour tortillas. It turned out really good.”

For Derek, he likes the adventure of the new recipes the culinary team creates every month. “I cannot wait to try the Maple-Cider Baked Salmon with Sweet Potatoes recipe that Grace Parisi put together,” Derek says.


OUR WILD COMMUNITY

“We aren’t that large of a company so you actually start forming a family,” Justin says about his time with Sitka Salmon Shares. “You really get to know people and community, and form lasting bonds,” he says. While writing this article, I learned Justin had accepted a management position outside the company. The news was bittersweet for the home-delivery team. “I'm super bummed because he's wonderful,” Derek says. “But I’m happy for him and his future.”

Justin is happy to have shared so much time connecting with our members and has a message for the folks on his delivery route: “Thank you for being kind to us drivers, and always asking how our day is.” 


***

As our community grows, we are always looking at whether it makes sense to expand the home-delivery operations. Whether you are in our home-delivery network or your order is fulfilled by a third party, we appreciate your support of a better seafood system. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to invest in the communities we operate facilities in or offer a fair dock price to Alaska’s fishing communities. Thank you, and stay wild! 

Join our community.
Subscribe Now
Join our community.
Subscribe Now