Sandy Recovery

11.06.12

New York’s Sushi Business Comes Back After Hurricane Sandy

Just a week after Hurricane Sandy left much of New York City starved for power and sustenance, the fresh-fish industry has returned to normal. Lauren Streib reports from the sushi frontier.

Though bruised by lost income and rotten inventory from the effects of Hurricane Sandy, it was back to business as usual for sushi restaurants and fishmongers in and around New York City by Monday morning.

Eateries and retailers reported fresh supplies and full menus for sushi-starved Manhattanites at the start of the workweek. “We’re getting deliveries today,” said Carl Waltzer, a co-owner of Monster Sushi, on Monday. The company has two locations in Manhattan, and its Chelsea outpost—in the dark until Friday night and reopened to the public Monday—was able to salvage only frozen inventory. “We threw out a couple hundred pounds of fish, easily,” said Waltzer.

Blue Ribbon Sushi, located in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood and part of the Blue Ribbon Restaurants Group, reopened on Saturday with a limited menu. The contents of its freezer, which dips to minus-65 degrees Fahrenheit, was usable, but everything else had to be discarded. Fresh inventory was back to pre-storm levels by Monday, though the restaurant’s usually long list of daily specials was truncated, said a manager.

Chelsea fishmonger The Lobster Place, which had no power until Friday night, returned to normal business operations on Sunday. Still, the store had to discard 1,500 to 2,000 pounds of lobster and 500 pounds of other seafood product, which is about a day and a half worth of inventory, said retail-operations manager Brendan Hayes. A week without foot traffic and hungry consumers was a greater loss for the business, of course.

The Lobster Place’s wholesale business in the Bronx was minimally affected by the storm, and its fleet of 12 trucks also managed deliveries this week despite the area fuel shortage. Aside from a few local oyster farmers on Long Island that had to shut down due to potential waste runoff, Hayes said he wasn’t aware of any noticeable change in quality or quantity of local fish from the New York and New Jersey area.

Alex Ortiz of Brooklyn’s Fish Tales market agreed. He said the inventory at the Fulton Fish Market at Hunts Point in the Bronx, the largest wholesale fish market in the country, was plentiful and that Fish Tale’s stock has been fresh every day since last week.

A spokesperson for the Fulton Fish Market said business throughout last week was slower than usual, as both wholesale seafood dealers and buyers from the tri-state area dealt with the aftermath of Sandy. Though there was some flooding on the south side of the building, the Bronx market didn’t lose power and was open for business at the crack of dawn Wednesday. (While Superstorm Sandy caused significant damage to some of the region’s largest fishing hubs, such as Cape May, it’s worth noting that more than 85 percent of the fish eaten in the U.S. is imported.)

Meanwhile, the brief New York market blackout was a boon to fresh-fish shoppers in Maine, who took advantage of the suddenly low prices, the Portland Press Herald reported.