He started the business with a couple of buddies on the banks of the Indian River. It was 1981, and John Mellaci’s vision was as simple as the times: to bring New England seafood to South Florida for customers to enjoy.
New England Fish Market opened in the former Bait Box building in Jensen Beach. Its offerings of cod, haddock and monkfish, as well as Maine lobsters, sea scallops and oysters, formed a fanatic following.
“Back then, there was hardly any place where you could get northern product,” Mellaci says.
The market swiftly grew in popularity, and with customers overcrowding the old tackle shop, it eventually had to move. Bigger digs on Jensen Beach Boulevard—its current location—saw the addition of a commercial kitchen and an air-conditioned dining room. New England Fish Market rebranded itself as New England Fish Market & Restaurant and opened a second location in Palm City that continues to flourish.
“I call it the house that fish built because I grew my business through selling fish,” Mellaci says.
His vision grew along with his company, and he added a wholesale component that took on a life of its own.
“I used to do the wholesale operation out of a small area in the back in Jensen Beach,” Mellaci says. “It was like putting 10 pounds of bologna into a five-pound bag every single morning. We got it all done, but I was limited on space.”
To remedy this issue, New England Wholesale Fish & Lobster made the move to a 20,000-square-foot facility in Stuart, where it sells to an ever-expanding list of country clubs and restaurants and also the general public.
“Now I can have 24,000 pounds of live lobster in my tanks at any one given time,” Mellaci says.
His newest venture is Treasure Coast Seafood, an online retail store that ships freshly caught favorites from around the world to anywhere in the country. The site will make a big splash this month as a sponsor of the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
What is your favorite food?
Oh boy. I love everything, but my mom’s homemade lasagna growing up was right at the top of the list. I love a great osso buco. I love fettuccine alfredo, too.
What is your favorite wine?
Favorite wine is a Quilceda Creek cabernet from Washington State and a pinot noir from California by DuMOL vineyards.
Tell us about your partnership with the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
We decided to sponsor the South Beach Wine & Food Festival to position ourselves strategically to launch our newest endeavor. Treasure Coast Seafood is our online retail seafood store with UPS-delivered seafood nationwide. Our chef-inspired, chef-endorsed company will be donating approximately $10,000 worth of seafood to the event for nationally known celebrity chefs to prepare for the numerous dinners and cocktail parties during the week of the show.
What is the secret to your success?
The secret to my success is simple: surround yourself with great people, treat them right, and never give up on your dreams.