Riby Street renaissance celebrated in Grimsby as seafood supply soars

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 18 Apr 2019

Grimsby's seafood industry is enjoying 2019’s strongest supply as the biggest weekend of the year is about to begin.

Good Friday is for fish what Christmas is for turkey, with huge spikes in sales recorded ahead of Easter.

And with the town handling more than 70 per cent of that bought for the dinner plates of the UK, it has meant a busy time - the busiest for 15 years in fact.

While yesterday was ‘Show Day’ at Grimsby Fish Market as merchants ensured the freshest supplies for customers, the retail and wholesale footfall will now turn to a mini renaissance just off the port estate.

Nathan Godley at Premier Seafoods. 

Riby Street may be have something of an unwanted reputation for another industry as the sun sets, but well before it rises the first street over the railway from the docks is a hive of seafood activity.

Investing, and seeing the response, are Nathan Godley and Lee Williams, who run Premier Seafoods and King Crab, and B&L Filleting and The King’s Dish between them.

MORE: Soaring supplies bring Easter delight for Grimsby's seafood trade  

Both were buoyed by the 10,000-plus boxes hitting the market this week, double the normal supply.

The latter fillets for the former, while Mr Godley also stores fish at Riby Street Coldstore – itself having smartened up its facade of late too, as the final flourish of colour was added to Premier this week.

From auction hustle and bustly to friendly wet counter service in minutes - Premier Seafoods. 

Mr Godley said: “There are not that many dedicated fish shops left, but we are here, as are others, and we want people to know about us, and use us instead of the supermarkets. We buy fresh at 7am, have it processed by Lee, then it is on sale by 9am. It is hard to beat that!

“You look at Tesco closing wet fish counters, and I can’t believe they are doing that. I can understand it is a difficult product to handle, but it feels like a big mistake to me.

MORE: Tesco counter cull a concern for Grimsby

“We are certainly getting a lot more people in since making some little changes, I’d say in the past year we have increased turnover by £200,000, and that’s driven by volume, not price increases.”

Having conducted a management buyout in mid 2016, he has given Premier a more personal approach, and is full of praise for others on the street, such as Cook and Lucas, for improving the look. Merchants have worked with their trade body representative, secretariat Simon Dwyer at Grimsby FMA, who in turn has engaged with ABP - owner of the land to the west - and North East Lincolnshire Council to ensure kerb-side fly tipping is curbed. PPS East on South Humberside Industrial Estate is also ensuring a daily collection of transit boxes, including the import-carrying Umbudamidlun tubs.

“We have tried to make the shop, and the street itself more welcoming,” Mr Godley said, upping staff from six to nine. “When I bought in, it was more wholesale, with the van lads too. They still come, they know what they want, ask for it, grab it and go. However, we have brought in three ladies, all with retail backgrounds and a time-served chef, and now we can help customers by suggesting species and recipes.”

While that is proving a big hit on a local level, nationally his King Crab website is bringing in online orders too, with boxes made up by 3pm and delivered the next day.

MORE: A £1b opportunity in seafood we can all share in - seafood chief's call to global industry leaders

Hopes are harboured that a boarded up, privately-owned void between Riby Street and Orwell Street, across from Nacton Street’s link with Cleethorpe Road, could be opened up and cleared to create a parking area too, boosting footfall further.

Just along the street and a team of 12 are now working in the expanded premises of Mr Williams’ growing operations. He has acquired the neighbouring Goodwins building, allowing his initial operation to maximise the 7.5 tonne weekly capacity PGI-certified traditional smokehouse he has rescued and refurbished.

Lee Williams outside the recently acquired premises, which was added to his Riby Street footprint.

“It is the most modern of the traditional smokehouses, set in a Grade Two listed 100-year-old building,” he said. “Now, with Goodwins, we have the space to build the business up and are keen to attract big customers - we have the capacity.

“The addition was the next stepping stone. It came available for sale and I grabbed it with both hands to put out contract filleting services in there.”

FLASHBACK: When our man took in Show Day in 2018

Starting with four customers, he now has 21 wholesale and fishmonger clients. He has just invested in vacuum packing too.

“I’ve invested several hundreds of thousands of pounds to set up this new, bigger site,” he added. “We are a family firm trying to expand and attract the major players.”

For Mr Dwyer, who is a leading light in the cluster group Seafood Grimsby Humber as well as the FMA, it has been an important piece of work on a local level, having delighted at the trade deals secured with Iceland, Norway and the Faroes as a safety net to a no-deal Brexit in recent weeks.

“Lee is doing a lot of good stuff, so too Nathan at Premier and Cook & Lucas is very vibrant too,” he said. “There’s Seachill’s smokehouse down there, M&J Seafood as well. Slowly but surely we’re making things better.”

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