Seldovia Wild Seafood to move back home

Since its inception, Seldovia Wild Seafood’s owners have wanted to bring their business back to the little city on Kachemak Bay. This year, their dream will come true.

Seldovia Wild Seafood, which produces smoked salmon jerky for pet treats, has to this point been located in Anchorage with an office on Main Street in Seldovia. The company purchases fish from processing companies and manufactures the treats, shipping them out from Anchorage and supplying some of the stores in the city. The goal has always been to get operations back to Seldovia, though, said Chief Operating Officer Brendan Bieri.

“We want to bring jobs back into Seldovia,” he said. “We want to have these little villages not die out anymore.”

The company’s story dates back to Bieri’s father, Michele Bieri, who arrived in Seldovia in 1986. Michele Bieri loves the community, a small town of about 285 permanent residents, and wants to see more economic development come back to the area, Brendan Bieri said.

Seldovia used to be a center for fishing on the south side of Kachemak Bay, with several canneries for pink and chum salmon and many set gillnet sites. The fishing industry thrived from the early 20th century until the Good Friday earthquake in 1964, which sent massive waves into the small town and flattened much of the infrastructure, according to the Seldovia Village Tribe. The construction of the Sterling Highway, connecting Homer to Anchorage, made it more efficient to center fishing operations on the north side of Kachemak Bay, and the canneries left Seldovia.

His father’s goal is to bring more work to the town, Brendan Bieri said.

“He just loves (Seldovia),” Brendan Bieri said. “… He’s an entrepreneur at heart, basically, and he fell in love with the little town and this is where he’s built his home.”

Seldovia Wild Seafood provides an added-value product, helping to diversify the economy of Alaska beyond just natural resource harvesting like fishing, Brendan Bieri said. Eventually, the company hopes to expand its product line as well, he said.

The plan is to move into a former Seldovia Village Tribe building in downtown Seldovia, a former grocery store on Main Street. Right now, the company is still doing business with processors for its raw product — they need processed fish to manufacture the treats,— but eventually would like to support local fishermen as well, he said.

The relocation is the culmination of a multi-year effort for the company. In 2013, the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development pitched in hundreds of thousands of dollars for the construction of a new value-added processing plan on the site of a former cannery, according to the fiscal year 2013 state budget. The plant was specifically intended for Seldovia Wild Seafood, and legislators and local officials took part in a groundbreaking event in July 2013, according to the Homer News.

However, the plant hasn’t been finished or used yet. It’s still missing some utilities and a floor, said Seldovia City Manager Tod Larson.

“So we still have a little bit of work to get that prepared,” he said.

The company hopes to get into the plant eventually, Brendan Bieri said.

For now, the city is working with the company to get its permits and zoning requirements in order, Larson said. The location requires a conditional use permit, which the Seldovia City Council will consider in February. So far, the reaction in town has been fairly positive about a new business coming into the community, he said. The city tries to encourage business development as much as possible without broaching its responsibilities, he said.

“We’re trying to do everything we can to support the business coming in within the boundaries of the city and the council,” he said.

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

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