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What's in Store: Movin’ on up

Success necessitates changes for do-it-all Cod & Capers

Cod & Capers’ fresh look has translated into an increase in retail seafood sales.  - Photo courtesy of Cod & Capers
By Christine Blank
March 01, 2013

After selling seafood at the same Palm Beach, Fla., spot for nearly 30 years, Cod & Capers Seafood was eager for a much larger space, one with room for a café, a fish market, a wholesale operation and offices. That was no small task, since its previous facility was just 4,600 square feet, even after three separate expansions.

The challenges of renovating influenced the careful steps that owner Steve Gyland took when shopping for a new site. “We started the process of looking [for property] back in 2008, and it took almost two years of negotiating to close the deal on where we are now,” Gyland says.

Gyland and other Cod & Capers executives settled on the new 8,600-square-foot, free-standing building — which opened in early January — because of its space and location. Situated right off of U.S. Route 1, a major north-south highway that traces the entire East Coast, the massive building used to be a T.G.I. Friday’s. The new spot is also convenient for the store’s loyal customers, since it is only about two miles away from its old location.

While Gyland wanted to open a restaurant within the new building, the chain-restaurant setup wasn’t the right fit. The new owners decided to completely gut the facility, “down to the dirt floor,” Gyland says, and completely re-design the structure to function as its current mixed retail, Cod & Capers Café and wholesale operation. “We looked at trying to use what was here and work around that. Had I not been in the seafood business as long as I have and had gone through those expansions, I might have tried fixing it up,” Gyland says.

For example, Gyland could have relocated Cod & Capers’ 20-year-old coolers and freezers, but realized that would be more expensive in the long run. “It could have cost $35,000 to move an $80,000 freezer,” Gyland says, not to mention a necessary shutdown for several weeks. 

Instead, the team purchased all new refrigeration and freezer equipment and completely revamped the building for around $1.5 million. Next, they needed to figure out how to transfer operations without disrupting customer service.  

“Normally, it would take three to four weeks to shut down while we would transfer all the coolers, freezers, display cases and other equipment. Because of the wholesale nature of our business — a fairly large component — we became aware of the fact that we really couldn’t shut down,” Gyland says.

So, on Saturday, Jan. 5, after closing the old Cod & Capers location at 6 p.m., the entire staff began moving all of its equipment and product, including computers, phones and seafood inventory, across town. 

“We spent Saturday afternoon until Monday morning re-stocking the new store and getting everything in place. Our wholesale business was completely operational on Monday morning,” Gyland says.

The new building features around 4,000 square feet for cold storage, 2,200 square feet of retail and wholesale space, 900 square feet for offices, and around 1,500 square feet for the café, which also sports a 1,500-square-foot outdoor patio with canopy. 

While the previous Cod & Capers location did not feature a café, customers requested a sit-down option to add to its “Cod & Carry” line of prepared foods. 

“For many years, customers asked for a restaurant where they can eat the stone crabs, soup and other seafood,” Gyland says. 

The 78-seat Cod & Capers Café serves lunch and dinner six days a week with specials like the Fried Oyster Roll for $14 and the Florida Lobster Risotto for $28. The café slowly ramped up its hours and is now open Monday through Saturday for lunch, and Wednesday through Saturday for dinner. 

While café sales account for around 4 percent of Cod & Capers’ overall sales, Gyland expects that to grow to around 15 percent by the end of the year. Wholesale is still Cod & Capers’ biggest moneymaker at more than 80 percent of overall sales, but retail is also performing well at around 13 percent of all sales, up from 10 percent at the previous location. 

Utilizing local, sustainable seafood and hiring knowledgeable staff are among the fish market’s keys to success. “We educate clerks so they can answer anything that customers ask. If they don’t know the answer, they find out,” Gyland says. 

Contributing Editor Christine Blank lives in Lake Mary, Fla.  

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