ASPA Member Feature: Smith & Sons Seafood
June 18, 2021
Since 1955, Smith & Sons Seafood in Darien, Georgia, has operated as a successful processor gleaning from abundant shrimp harvests pulled from South Atlantic waters. Walter “Big John” Smith Jr., vice president, is the youngest of the sons and is now at the helm of the company that was started by his father, Walter “WM” Smith Sr. The patriarch of the business has passed away, but not a day goes by that John doesn’t think about the legacy his father left behind, especially with his picture hanging on the wall right across from his desk.
“He was just an impressive man, and I admired his work ethic and drive,” John says. “To this day, everywhere I go, my daddy’s friends will tell me stories about him like when he was drafted right out of high school to play baseball for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He chose not to do it. He chose to stay with his family. He chose to stay in the shrimp business.”
WM was quite the entrepreneur from a young age, and his strong work ethic pushed him to cultivate new business opportunities within the shrimp industry. The vision for the company goes back to when he was only 16-years-old, and he purchased a 32-foot boat to start catching live bait to sell to marinas, who in turn sold it to recreational fishermen. Every day, he would take his bait boat and drag a 20-foot net for shrimp, but when his catches were too heavy for him to pull in alone, large shrimp boats would come alongside him and help, but they were dumbfounded at the amount of shrimp he was pulling.
“There were some days he would pull in 1,200 to 1,500 pounds of shrimp,” John says. “One day he was asked how in the world he caught so much more bait shrimp than anybody else? You run the creeks and the banks and wherever you put out, there’s shrimp. My daddy said, ‘I always watch the marsh hen on the banks; whatever side he’s on, that’s where the shrimp are because he’s feeding on them.’ And that was his secret.”
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