Fueling Acme Smoked Fish’s Brooklyn expansion: Fish Friday and happy clients

'Fish Fridays' in Greenpoint raised the brand’s profile locally

February 13, 2019 By Raanan Geberer Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Acme Smoked Fish Corp., one of Brooklyn’s longest-operating manufacturers and one of the city’s best-known purveyors of smoked salmon, herring, whitefish salad and other traditional Eastern European Jewish specialties, plans to expand into a new manufacturing plant in Greenpoint that would preserve more than 100 jobs.

The incoming facility, designed in partnership with development firm Rubenstein Partners, will be built on land the company already owns at 30 Gem St. in Greenpoint, according to The Real Deal, expanding Acme’s workspace from 65,000 to 80,000 square feet. The rest of the building will be earmarked for office use.

The expansion comes even as the market for traditional European Jewish food has dwindled over the years. In 2009, David Sax, author of the book “Save the Deli,” wrote in The Atlantic that New York City was once home to more than 1,000 Jewish delis — but by the article’s publication, only about two dozen remained.

Acme’s ability not only to survive but also to expand is a testament to its reputation and quality. The secret to its success? Fish Fridays, happy clients and a growing distribution operation.

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For example, on Facebook’s “Save the Deli” group, Mark Berkow, a former owner of an appetizing store and a Brooklyn College alumni, wrote, “Its high-quality products are always consistent as to taste. Whitefish is excellent. Baked salmon is fatty and delicious. Their salads and herrings were made to have with some NY bagels and bialys.”

Another member of the group, Larry Kerman, commented, “I get their lox and whitefish salad both in Buffalo and South Florida, and both are excellent.”

In the past, Acme’s success was mainly felt behind the scenes. According to a Bloomberg article published in 2017, Acme supplied smoked fish to most of the city’s premier surviving appetizing stores, such as Russ & Daughter’s, Barney Greengrass and Zabar’s in Manhattan, and Shelsky’s in Cobble Hill. These venues all have their own specific versions of the fish — “Our suppliers do special stuff for us. They know our tastes,” Joshua Russ Tupper of Russ & Daughters told Bloomberg.

However, Acme products are increasingly seen on supermarket shelves. For example, in Gristedes and Fairway stores, herring from Chicago-based Vita stood virtually alone until a few years ago. Now, the stores also carry Acme herring as well as Blue Hill Bay herring, another brand manufactured by Acme.

In addition to its namesake brand and Blue Hill, Acme also makes Ruby Bay, which focuses on specialty smoked-fish items such as smoked salmon jerky; and Great American, a brand geared for Florida food establishments.

Locally, Acme also raised its profile last year by instituting “Fish Friday,” which opens the doors of its Greenpoint manufacturing facility every Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. “Fish Friday” exclusives include lemon pepper salmon and Gary’s Special (named after production manager Gary Brownstein), which changes every week, according to the New York Post.

Reviews of “Fish Friday” on Yelp were overwhelmingly positive, and Acme received a five-star rating. For example, Eddie W. from San Francisco wrote, “Anyone that loves lox needs to, I repeat, needs to come on Friday during their public hours. The variety is amazing and the flavors are so true and pure. Just writing this makes me wish I could go back right now.”

Approximately 45 percent of the company’s employees live in Brooklyn, according to a news release. While the company has another manufacturing facility in North Carolina, the Brooklyn project is “about preserving the authenticity of smoked fish in the New York City area,” managing partner and co-CEO Adam Caslow said.

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