About a year after a fire gutted its production facility, a decades-old seafood wholesaler is back in action in the city with a shiny new factory.
Dickie’s Seafood cut the ribbon Thursday on its new Northside digs at 1508 Brook Road, which was built on the site of the company’s previous factory that was heavily damaged in a fire in June of last year.
With the old factory a total loss, Dickie’s largely ceased operations after the fire. The new building powers its return to supermarkets, which also started this week.
The company spent $5 million to relaunch, and most of the funds went toward the factory and equipment. Among improvements with the new facility are the Laitram CoolSteam cooking system and Rainfall chiller system. Dickie’s said it is just one of three U.S. seafood processors to use the equipment.
The factory has the same footprint as its predecessor at 16,000 square feet. Updated equipment and a reconfigured space is expected to make it a more efficient operation. The company is able to produce up to 1,500 pounds of cooked shrimp an hour.
Rounding out the relaunch expenses was $1 million allocated to retain employees during the downtime in the aftermath of the fire.
“I didn’t want to lose them to competition. The day after the fire these guys were getting phone calls,” CEO Frank Fay said in an interview prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony.
The company has 20 employees now and had more than 30 employees pre-fire.
Dickie’s shrimp is now rolling out to stores. The company plans to reintroduce its crab products in the fall.
Fish products, though part of the company’s lineup pre-fire, won’t be introduced until later and will be provided by a contractor.
“(Fish) was our smallest component and we decided if we rebuilt and hit the ground running, we had to focus on what we do best and what we’re known for,” Fay said.
Shrimp and crab products represented about 85 percent of the company’s business.
Dickie’s will have the same retail footprint it had pre-fire: Its products will be stocked in 36 Food Lions, 45 Krogers and 80 mom-and-pop shops in central and eastern Virginia, Fay said. He added the company plans to expand that market area in the future.
Fay said the relaunch has been funded through insurance proceeds and the Paycheck Protection Program. The company did $5.3 million in revenue in 2019, Fay said.
While largely in standby mode for about a year, Dickie’s did do a short-term pop-up during the holiday season. Fay said it was the right move because it kept the brand fresh in customers’ minds in the run up to the relaunch.
“We felt being out of the marketplace would be too long for us and we wanted to get our product out for the holiday season,” he said. “I think it helped us in many different ways. We were able to do a nice advertising program over radio to keep the name out there.”
Dickie’s, which was founded by Dickie Poh in 1978, is owned by Sustainable Sea Products International and VB General Holdings.