Al Bush does not want his trailer to intimidate people. The brightly colored 20-foot trailer — what he calls the “Mobile Seafood Unit” — is frequently stationed in parking lots around Southern Illinois — the Murdale Shopping Center in Carbondale a couple of days a week, regular stays in Harrisburg, Marion, Sparta and as far north as Freeburg.
In each location, Bush is there, selling a variety of fish and other seafood items.
“I know that sometimes people are scared of trucks and parking lots and trailers, but there is nothing to be afraid of here,” he said.
That’s probably because Seafood Specialties has been a Southern Illinois tradition for more than three decades, offering a wide variety of seafood products to a loyal group of customers and new buyers, eager to try products that they are unlikely to find elsewhere. Besides the trailer, Seafood Specialities also sells from a retail location in Anna. He provides seafood to a number of restaurants in the region, as well.
Bush, who has owned the company for five years, proudly displays FDA-required certifications and documents showing perfect scores from area health departments. He talks of how his products — a wide variety of fish and seafood from around the nation — are kept at 10 degrees below zero. He says practically everything he sells is caught fresh and then flash frozen onboard the ship.
“If you really look at it, flash freezing is better than fresh because the flavor is locked in,” Bush said. “Freezing kills any organisms. So to me, it's a safer product.”
The list of products Bush carries is extensive. Popular items include shrimp, lobster, scallops, tuna, fish fillets and range to the more exotic including alligator and shark. Most of it, he says, is from the United States.
“I get salmon, pollock, king crab, snow crab from Alaska; a variety of fish from Florida; shrimp from Alabama and oysters from Louisiana,” he says. “We sell a lot of crab, a lot of shrimp and a lot of fish and seafood that you can’t get anywhere else. I carry a very extensive inventory.”
He says he even takes requests.
“Usually I can get it, but every once in a while, someone will ask for something I can’t get,” he says.
Bush bought the company from Dan Lewis of Jonesboro about five years ago when Lewis was looking to retire after three decades of selling seafood.
“I went down to buy my last seafood and ended up buying the company,” Bush says.
A native of the Oregon coast, seafood was a perfect fit for Bush. He says he enjoys the business.
“I like chasing different products and I like to bring in new stuff that people haven’t tried yet,” he explains. “I like making recommendations to people to try something and then they come back for it. It’s the wow factor.”
Speaking of the wow factor, Bush says he strives to bring bigger products that most people in the region are used to. For instance, he carries 10-ounce half snow crabs and 20-ounce or bigger lobster tails.
“People see those and they get excited,” he says. “They try them and then they come back.”
Bush says they tell their friends, too.
“We’ve grown the business about 25 percent in recent years,” he says, adding that through the store in Anna and the “retailer on wheels,” Seafood Specialities sells as much as 4,000 pounds of seafood every week.
He adds that building awareness of the company through “religious” Facebook use and wrapping the trailer with bright colors has been a huge boost to the company.
“People see me coming and you can’t miss it,” he says.
For more on Seafood Specialties, visit www.seafoodspecialitiesonline.com or call 618-833-6083.