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Shayne Garbes and Janine Rogers outside the North Canterbury Fish Market

Selling the seafood story in rural North Canterbury

Wednesday 7 December 2016

North Canterbury Seafood Market co-owner Janine Rogers says their success is down to a mix of “personal values, business ethics, great staff, strong industry knowledge and sheer determination”.

Rogers and business partner Shayne Garbes, a fifth generation Kaikoura fisherman, are strong advocates for the seafood industry with their rural inland customers.

The business had its beginnings with Garbes’ small rural fish delivery enterprise based out of Kaikoura and a chance meeting between Rogers and Garbes.

“I wanted fresh fish and lived in Waikuku Beach. I bumped into Shayne in Greta Valley after he had been selling fish at the Waipara Valley Farmers market. I asked him down to Waikuku Beach to sell fish outside my home to the residents of Waikuku.”

It was a big success, Garbes moved south and they opened the shop two years later.

“The move south for Shayne enabled us to establish a seafood shop in the busy service town of Rangiora, North Canterbury, creating a destination shopping experience for seafood with a fresh fish daily, taste the difference motto.

“We are dedicated to buying the catch from the Lyttelton fleet to ensure local people are eating local food.  Shayne’s 22 years of fishing places him in good stead to select the best fish from the Christchurch Fish Market.  From there it is transported back to the premises for processing, ensuring care of fish from whole, to fillet, to plate.

“Looking after the fish, keeping it fresh and in a good state from catch to plate is one of our core business practices and a main key to our success in building a regular customer base,” says Garbes.

With the shop established, Garbes introduced a smoked fish range. Starting with the basics of a Kiwi Sizzler smoker, he perfected the product, moving to a commercial smoker to meet the growing demand for their smoked products. 

“Another string to our bow is the ready to heat-and-eat products, all made on-site.  We wanted to capture the market of busy people wanting to eat healthily and there is something really satisfying in knowing that we are contributing to people’s health and well-being. The deli is stocked with fishcakes, fish pies, salmon filo, chowders, dressings and sauces to name a few items that rock out the door. “

North Canterbury Seafood Market sells at three of the four North Canterbury farmers markets at Ohoka, Waipara Valley and Oxford.

“This offers us the opportunity to be face-to-face with more customers, advertise the shop and also get fish out that bit further afield. It’s a down to earth way of selling a product and feels quite nostalgic,” Rogers says. 

And they are sharing their knowledge with their customers through running “learn to fillet” evenings led by fish filleter Steve Brown.

“This hands-on night is highly informative, entertaining, and with a meal of fish cooked two ways to enjoy as well. We are fortunate to have Steve who has been in the industry for over 30 years and can easily convey his knowledge and experience to our learners.”

Seven and ahalf years on, and the business is still growing despite the challenges faced as a result of the Canterbury earthquakes and other factors out of their control.

“Weathering the changes brought on by the Canterbury earthquakes, population shifts and the challenges sourcing fish due to weather, available quota, competing with export suppliers and the tragedy of losing a local fishing vessel and crew to a storm that was a key supplier to the Christchurch fish market has been challenging.   

“One of the hardest things of being in fish retail is when customers complain about the lack of species or the prices at which we have to sell fish. Customers have been well-trained by supermarkets to expect to buy any given product at any time of the year, so when we have half our usual species available because of factors out of our control they are truly miffed.”

Rogers and Garbes say they go to lengths to explain to customers how the fishing industry works and what elements they are up against.  

“From this continual effort of educating true loyalty has grown,” Rogers says.

“We are passionate about employing local people and have a great crew on board to help with processing, sales, farmers markets and cooking.”

They describe their workforce as their “work family”.

“Our shop is ‘more than just a fish shop’. It’s a place where people know your name, where you have a laugh or an ear if need be and advice is never in short supply when asking about what fish to have and how to cook it. It is a shop based on integrity, service and excellence.”

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