Pelicans and people don’t really have much in common, except they both love Independent Seafood in Georgetown, South Carolina. This locally-owned seafood distribution house has always focused on selling the catches from locally fishermen, providing both restaurants and individuals with fresh seafood. But you’ll have to watch out: the front and back doors are guarded by hungry pelicans who want that fish just as much as you do!
Independent Seafood (1 Cannon Street, Georgetown, SC | 843-546-6642 | Price Varies by Season, Catch, and Quantity) began operation as an independent seafood distributor in 1937. It was started by Herbert Tarbox as a place for independent boat captains to bring their daily catches and make sure it ended up on a dinner plate. Today, the business is owned by his son, Glennie Tarbox, and still serves the same purpose.
For a small, locally-owned business, Independent Seafood stays busy. Very busy. On any given day you will find refrigerated trucks leaving with pallets of fresh catches of the day. Although the boats will sometimes stay at sea for a week at a time, there is always someone pulling into the dock on Winyah Bay to unload their catch. Once unloaded, the employees begin a scramble to sort the catch, box it up, load it on pallets, and get it on a truck. They will keep some of the catch on ice for the local individuals and restaurants, but a large portion of the catch is shipped to the colder New England states.
If you’re a fan of shows like Deadliest Catch (which I most certainly love) then you know the fishing seasons change just like any other season. The local boat captains will go as far as the Gulf Stream (about 80-100 miles off-shore) for their catch, but what they bring back depends on many factors. Throughout the year, however, you can find a large variety of seafood on ice ready for your picking. Here is a list of the seafood, fish, and shrimp you can find at Independent Seafood.
Independent Seafood makes its home in a small concrete building along Winyah Bay. Anyone is welcome to stop by during their operating hours (you will need to call ahead to verify) and shop for some local seafood. Not only do they have seafood, but they also make dips and pimento cheese. All of these are kept on ice in freezers and barrels throughout the small venue to make sure it stays as fresh as possible. If you stop by in October, you’ll be greeted by dozens of pelicans sitting on the dock in the back, waiting for scraps and discarded fish to slide down a chute into the water below. It’s an interesting show to go along with an interesting shopping experience.
When to Go: Call ahead to find out what seafood is currently in-season and in-stock, but you won’t need to go early. Most boats pull into the dock later in the day, and they need time to sort any new shipment before they can start to sell it.
How to Get There: Once you enter Georgetown, turn toward their historic downtown area. Cannon Street is at the eastern edge of downtown, a couple of blocks from the end of the historic downtown area. The business sits on a dead-end street, but it is wide and allows for plenty of parking.
What to Do: Don’t be shy! If you haven’t cooked your own seafood before, ask one of the friendly employees about the seafood to determine what you want to buy. If you’re familiar with seafood, it only takes a few minutes to walk around the small venue and see what they have. Ask about what they may have coming in later that day or the next day.
How Much Does it Cost: The cost varies by season, type of seafood, and how much the boat captains are bringing in. You will pay about 10-20% higher than you would at a grocery store, but you are getting seafood that is 50-200% fresher than the grocery stores, so it is well worth it.
Best Tip for Best Experience: If you live in New England, somewhere along the Appalachian Mountains, or generally 200 miles from the ocean, bring a cooler with you and plan to stop here. The seafood you will find here will be much fresher than anything you find in a grocery store back home. You also have the benefit of supporting a local business since the money spent at Independent Seafood goes directly to the boat captains!
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