ASPA Member Feature: Sea Pearl Seafood Company, Inc.
December 4, 2020
The Ladnier family of Sea Pearl in Bayou La Batre, Alabama can trace its roots back to the 1700s when French settlers came to the central Gulf Coast. In fact, the city of Pass Christian, Mississippi was named after family ancestor Christian Ladiner (the spellings evolved over the years), and the family has been connected to the Gulf of Mexico and its bounty ever since.
Sea Pearl is a family business owned by Greg and Jan Ladnier, who work alongside their grown children Shawn and Megan and a team averaging 60 loyal employees year-round. Greg’s love for the business started in the early 1960s at age 10, working alongside his uncle on a little bay boat named the I’m Alone.
“It was like a little 30-foot boat that had a little small Case diesel in it,” Greg says. “At the time, actually the ‘try net’ winch was still a manual winch that you had to raise and lower by hand, which was my job.”
The family history took a brief turn outside of seafood when Greg’s father and grandfather, along with members of many other Alabama seafood families in the fifties, were involved in transporting supplies on tugboats and building the original bridge from mainland Alabama to Dauphin Island. The same engineering firm subsequently had a project to build a road across Salt Lake in Utah and needed their skills. Never ones to miss out on an opportunity, Greg’s father Joseph Edmond “Joe E.” Ladnier and grandfather Leo Frank Ladnier, moved their families to Utah in 1956 for three years. Greg still remembers the town they lived in “Little Valley,” constructed for the sole purpose of housing the construction crew.
After returning to Alabama from Utah, the family once again established its place in the seafood business when Greg’s father, after having worked on shrimp boats for years, started Sea Pearl as an oyster business. Greg’s mother, Dawn Castelin Ladnier, was also very involved in helping run the business day-to-day. But by the 1970s, Sea Pearl had evolved into handling shrimp — unloading them from the boats and sending them to canning plants. When freezing equipment became more readily available, the business grew from there. Today, the company is known for setting the standard for quality Gulf shrimp processing.
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