Cleaning fish

Mark Marhefka of Abundant Seafood prepares a fish for cooking.

Abundant Seafood has earned a loyal following by offering what many other seafood sellers don’t, including a locally docked fishing boat and longstanding commitment to sustainable fishing practices. But the Mount Pleasant outfit has always wanted for amenities that other businesses would consider essential, including a logo, website and permanent home.

Now the company, which boasts the Lowcountry’s most coveted catch, is making headway on all of the above.

“I tell Mark we’re becoming a more grown-up business,” says Kerry Marhefka, who co-owns Abundant with her husband; Mark Marhefka has been a commercial fisherman since the day he graduated high school in 1979, when he took a bus to Shem Creek and boarded a boat.

“This is stuff we’ve wanted to do forever,” she continues. “But everything takes a little longer because it’s just us: We’ve never taken on capital.”

Because of the unpredictable nature of fishing, Marhefka says accountants, bankers and other money types are reluctant to deal with small-scale seafood dealers. Abundant has funded its operation in part through a Community-Supported Fishery program, in which buyers purchase $300 shares in advance of Marhefka’s fishing trips; a share is good for 30 whole pounds of fish.

Among the upgrades which Abundant has made this year is the creation of an online system for CSF customers, so they can track their accounts and schedule pickups without having to meet the Marhefkas in person. “We’re obviously very late adapters,” Kerry Marhefka says, sighing. “This is kind of taking us a little bit into the current century.”

Prior to developing the digital alternative to the dock, Abundant’s only online presence was a sporadically updated Facebook page. With the new system comes a complete website, stamped with Abundant’s new logo, designed by Charleston’s 2nd Floor Co. The logo, featuring a fishtail, is also prominent on Abundant’s new refrigerated truck.

Marhefka says they purchased the vehicle because they’ve started making regular deliveries to Greenville, Asheville, Columbia and Husk Savannah, a schedule supported by the Marhefkas forging relationships with fishermen who share Abundant’s philosophy but don’t want to launch their own businesses. Buying their catch has allowed Abundant to better meet demand, and seriously consider opening a retail shop.

“There’s an insecurity at the dock,” Marhefka says. “We’re looking and hoping to get into a building.”

For years, the Marhefkas’ real estate search was complicated by their desire to stay on the waterfront. But as they rework their business plan, with help from a consultant secured through Lowcountry Local First, they’re drawing different conclusions about what to prioritize from a financial perspective.

Their primary work, though, hasn’t changed.

“We’re definitely sticking to who we are,” Marhefka says. “Our goal is to stay in our lane and do what we do.”

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

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