Gulf seafood comes to Demopolis

Published 11:32 am Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Where do you go for fresh seafood? Mobile? Pensacola? Gulf Shores? How about Demopolis?

Beginning today (Wednesday), Tim Harrison will sell seafood at the Demopolis city landing area. He will have fresh shrimp on hand, and can take orders for any other kind of seafood, from crabs to oysters and anything else you would pick up on a run to the Gulf.

Harrison plans on selling Bella Mia seafood from his position at the Demopolis Yacht Basin Wednesday, then selling from one of the concrete areas along the river bank next to the Riverwalk just south of the city landing this weekend.

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A former commercial fisherman who grew up in a family who were fishermen for the last 100 years, Harrison came to Demopolis after he met Kim Hansard, the office manager at the Demopolis Yacht Basin, speaking at a meeting of the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Marina Association in Columbus, Miss., last spring.

“She’s the one who really pushed coming to Demopolis,” Harrison said. “Originally, I was going to Columbus and set up there. She really pushed for her town! ”

Harrison said his boat was struck by lightning on the way up the river from the Gulf of Mexico, damaging his electronics, but things are starting to settle in for the seafood entrepreneur.

“It’s almost impossible to make a living as a commercial fisherman,” he said. “The amount of fuel it burns — we burn about 12 gallons an hour — so if you pull for 10 hours at $2 a gallon, it adds up. You need to really turn some shrimp.

“It isn’t that you can’t catch the shrimp; it’s the imports that’s killing you, like in the catfish industry. People don’t realize what they’re eating. Here in the States, they can’t use antibiotics, but overseas, they can. They’re not supposed to import them here with all of that on them, but they get around all of that.”

A native of New Orleans, Harrison said all of his seafood comes straight from the Gulf. With the help of his brother Tommy and friends like Ron Leroy, he hopes to get his Bella Mia seafood company going right here in Demopolis. He plans to make continuous runs to the Gulf, bringing back shrimp, crabs, oysters, fish, calimari and other seafood to Demopolis.

Harrison was impressed with Demopolis even before he saw it. He met John Brown, a construction worker from Demopolis, when Brown went to the Gulf to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

“Those are things that helped bring us here,” Harrison said. “Now that we’re here, I’ll tell you: working with the city was not like working with a city! Normally, you go in, you can’t even get somebody on the phone. I could tell that your mayor (Mike Grayson) was very pro-business, so I really wanted to come in here and get my business license and do everything aboveboard.”

Harrison said he will price his shrimp at prices similar to those found at the Gulf. He hopes to expand on his business by bringing in seafood chef celebrities to promote his business as well as this area.

Harrison invites seafood fans to come by his boat at the Yacht Basin today or at the city landing this weekend to see what he has on hand or to order any other seafood. He is taking phone orders at (228) 363-2159, and will also take orders at his boat.

“My brother is down at the Gulf now, and he has a few crab boats,” he said. “It’s just a matter of calling him and telling the guys, ‘Hey, we need four bushels,’ or whatever people want.”

Demopolis is not likely to rival New Orleans or Mobile or Pensacola in the seafood industry, but who needs to, when it can have Gulf seafood brought to Demopolis? Harrison’s idea is one fish story that can have a happy ending here in the River City.