Dock to Doorstep: The Warehouse

By Jonathan Wlasiuk

Dock to Doorstep: The Warehouse
Our warehouse in Galesburg, Illinois.

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


Dock to Doorstep: The Warehouse | Sitka Salmon Shares

Sitka, Alaska is our home port and the location of our fish plant, but Galesburg, Illinois is the heart of our supply chain. Regardless of where it is caught, every box of wild seafood delivered to your door is assembled in our warehouse in Galesburg. With so much media attention on problems in the global supply chain, let’s take a look at why we staff our own warehouse and how our growth benefits communities where we operate.


MIDWESTERN ROOTS

Originally, the co-founders of Sitka Salmon Shares fulfilled orders with their own personal vehicles and a spreadsheet. That was simple enough with a subscriber base consisting of just a handful of folks around Knox College. Galesburg made sense as the home of our warehouse because of our goal of connecting small-boat fishing communities in Alaska to seafood lovers who didn’t always have access to high-quality, wild-caught fish.

Galesburg was ideal. Centrally-located and near our initial cluster of subscribers, Galesburg became our hub to package and fulfill all of our shipments. 

Illustration by Libby Geboy.


Why do we need a warehouse? Our warehouse gives us a location to sort all of our seafood, package each box individually with our newsletter and recipe cards, load them up with dry ice, and send them to your doorsteps. At each step in our supply chain we verify the quality and consistency of our seafood so you get the best product possible. 

SCALING SUSTAINABLY

Our decision to locate the warehouse in Galesburg meant that our success translated directly to new opportunities for folks who live in the communities where we operate. Our Chief Operating Officer Dara Chapman knows this as well as anyone because she lived it. “Before I joined Sitka Salmon Shares as an employee I was a customer, so when I was looking for the next step in my career I reached out to the cofounders since I had such a high opinion of the product and the vision for the company,” Dara says. “There wasn’t a need immediately, but when there was an opening about a year later, they had me in their contacts and I was thrilled to get the opportunity to join the team.”

The Warehouse in Galesburg is the logistical heart of Sitka Salmon Shares.

Dara’s experience in operations management helped the company navigate through some rough seas. I asked her what logistical challenges confronted her that first year. “Many,” she says. “In the early stages there is an all-hands-on-deck approach to running and executing the business.” Within a single year, Dara solved logistial snags in our supply chain and oversaw the growth of the fulfillment and delivery operations from a regional to national footprint. 

Her hard work paid off in the form of member growth and a talented workforce. “As we’ve grown over the last few years we’ve been able to bring on people with more specialized skills that have made operations more efficient. That has allowed me to move to more of a strategic and management role than I was in when I first started.”

Lisanne Morton, our shipping supervisor at the warehouse in Galesburg, took on some of the specialized work. “I had started a career before arriving at Sitka Salmon Shares, but I have actually had an opportunity to cultivate it,” Lisanne says. Originally hired as seasonal support staff, Lisanne earned two promotions in her first two months on the job. “The warehouse has a close-knit crew,” she says. “We work together and genuinely care for one another.”

Shipping Supervisor Lisanne Morton hard at work.

Lisanne spends her day focused on the details that ensure members receive the best experience. Images of our fishermen hauling in a line of salmon may be more romantic, but Lisanne prints out the labels that identify each fish and connect it to a fishing vessel or trusted partner. She manages our stock of packing materials and, critically, our dry ice supply—both necessary to maintain our standard of quality all the way to your freezer. Lisanne also communicates with me, the director of research and writing, so that each subscription box receives the proper recipe card and issue of The Catch. 

"I have found a new work home and family with Sitka Salmon Shares,” Lisanne says. Our member growth made that possible. 



ESSENTIAL PRECAUTIONS

The pandemic created unprecedented challenges for our warehouse crew. “Work got more intense,” Dara says. “Everything felt more high stakes.”  The warehouse followed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and applied them to our operations. That meant temperature checkpoints, a mask mandate, and social distancing measures.

Dara says she also allowed flexibility for the human element. “If someone didn’t feel comfortable coming into work, we found other places for them to contribute. We tried to be very sensitive to the stress levels.” Thanks to the buy-in from our staff, and the quick implementation by our leadership, Sitka Salmon Shares avoided outbreaks that paralyzed other businesses.

Warehouse staff filling April subscription boxes with wild-caught Dungeness crab.


The pandemic reminded us just how vulnerable food systems are to disruption. Building a better seafood system means maintaining adaptable infrastructure that connects producers—like our small-scale fishing communities—directly to households. Whether you call that “not putting all your eggs in one basket” or food security, creating alternative food networks builds resiliency in a network dependent on large agribusiness.

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Operating our own warehouse was an important step in our growth. Our company’s progression will require similar choices in the future. The experiences we’ve gained will inform our choices when we come to the next fork in the road. Whether we decide to take the lead or rely on partners who share our vision, we are grateful for your support. Thank you for being part of our growth and helping us build a better seafood system. 

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