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From Lake to Table: Family Owned Business 40 Years Strong 08/09/2018 by Alex O
Westfield Fisheries, at 8252 First Street in Barcelona-Westfield has been in operation for over 40 years in the same location by the same family. Kris Irwin and his wife Amanda officially took over the business when his parents Bob and Violet retired a year ago. Upon visiting the market, it hasn’t changed much from my memories in the 1970’s. Folks from all over come to buy the fish, smoked on premises with the “original Secret Recipe” in a man-made smoker that is sparked and fueled by corn cobs. Unlike other smokers fueled by electricity Kris awaits the frequent delivery of shucked corn cobs from area Amish farms. As the cobs are also used for ethanol, the cobs can be difficult to source for smoking fish. The popular ‘farm to table’ movement reminds me of the similarity of Irwin’s local business. Corn cobs are ‘recycled’ from the Amish farmers, thereby providing another revenue stream for them. Kris and his son Tayler (20 years old), fish in Lake Erie, trap-net the perch from their boat with low sides for ease in pulling the nets out and fish into the boat. With four traps they bring in and process 1,000-1,500 pounds each week. Fresh water cod, called burbot is also trapped and sold fresh. This fresh water burbot has 3-4 times the vitamin D and 4-10 times the vitamin A of cod liver oil. (workingfishnet.com) This fish does not freeze well, making it a lake to table fish. “Lake Erie supports the largest commercial harvest in the Great Lakes. Walleye (yellow pike) and yellow perch are the most harvested species and the bulk of the Lake Erie catch is from Canadian waters.” (GLEAM)
A recent visit to Westfield Fisheries was informative and inspiring. A small business, with family employees, gives inspiration for the hard-working, do-it-all business. No ‘big box’ here, Kris works may hours, trapping, cleaning, cooking, smoking and greeting the many patrons, 7 days a week. The family of 4, Including 2 young adult sons, live above the market. The market is open 7 days a week, 10am-5pm. Westfield Fisheries is open for business on March 1 and they close shortly before Christmas. As Amanda multi-tasked, she said, “We see so many locals on a regular basis, it is great to keep connected to the community.” Kris explains, “We supply the fresh perch to so many area restaurants on a daily basis. Butch’s Place and Arnie’s in Erie, PA both serve the fresh perch. Local restaurants include Jack’s Barcelona Drive-In, Calarco’s Italian Restaurant (Westfield), The Docks and Lakeview Hotel, (Mayville) and Webb’s Restaurant (Mayville). We must also assure our customers we will have fresh perch when they stop in. Between trapping, cleaning, smoking, food preparation and running the store, we work non-stop in the busy season.” Amanda said, “Find us on Facebook and call ahead for availability.” The number is 716-326-3210.
Smoked whitefish, smoked salmon and smoked shrimp are the ‘go-to’ items many patrons stop by for. The Whitefish Dip, made with whitefish, celery, onion, seasoning and miracle whip is popular for those planning to entertain at a cocktail party. Kris is the chef who makes the dip and has future plans for more prepared items. Their son Daryl (17 years old), is the chef understudy for the business. Kris’ mother, Violet often stops by and assists with fish cutting. His dad, Bob stops by to visit and interact with the customers. A variety of cheese is sold, smoked off site. Fresh Lake Erie perch fillets and fresh yellow pike (walleye) filets are in the display case and are big sellers. Frozen tuna steaks, frozen grouper fillets, beer-battered haddock are available for purchase. Pickled herring is sold by the jar and battered smelt is sold on site. ‘Blind Robbins’ comes from Canada. The tuna and the grouper are sourced from Hawaii.
Wintertime finds the Irwin’s building trap nets, attending lots of hockey games and preparing for the following season. Spring of 2019 will be the kick-off of an additional feature at the Fishery – a carry-out operation. The target opening is Memorial Day weekend. Carry-out food will be prepared on site and patrons can take their meals to their boat or down to the beach with a selection of entrees, snacks, fish dinners, fish kabob’s, crab macaroni salad and kids meals. An adjacent room will be renovated this winter to serve the carry-out customers. Kris said, “Thursday’s through Sunday’s are our busiest. With the addition of carry-out I predict the weekends will be busier than ever. The customers have been asking for carry-out for some time and we can’t wait to serve them our chef specials.” 2019 looks like a great year for Westfield Fisheries.