ASPA Member Feature: Tommy’s Seafood

February 25, 2022

The seafood industry has a strong reputation for generational blessings where a trade is passed down through father-to-son lineage. In the case of the Delaunes, who operate Tommy’s Seafood in New Orleans, it truly is a family affair featuring Tommy, owner and president; his wife, Maria, secretary and treasurer; and their four sons, Chalin, vice president; Sean, operations; Ryan, public relations; and Christian, accounting.

However, before their brood came along, it was just Tommy and Maria, who began the business in 1982: “We started so young, before the boys were even born, therefore, this was our first child,” Maria says. “This was not a business we suddenly took over. We learned it from the beginning, and just like having a child, you learn how to nurture it from the beginning.”

In Tommy’s case, he didn’t come from a seafood family. In fact, his introduction to the industry was a crash course that turned into an opportunity of destiny. When he was 32, he was hired as a manager of the Fish House in New Orleans, a retail and wholesale seafood business that specialized in a diverse product line of shrimp, crabs, oysters, crawfish and fish. Local customers enjoyed the fresh selection of a daily catch, and customers as far as Baltimore, Maryland, also got a hearty taste of Louisiana seafood, particularly crabs.

With no background in seafood, Tommy learned everything he could on a fast track pace that involved a lot of long hours building a strong customer base. Even though the business was thriving, after only seven months, the company partners decided to go separate ways, and the Fish House closed its doors for good, which forced Tommy to make a big decision about his next career move.

After some pondering and catching a glimpse of what it would be like to own a business, Tommy took a risk that was “kindled by the fire of ambition,” and decided to stay the course: “I saw the opportunity in the seafood business, and I just couldn’t see myself going back to a regular job of working for someone,” Tommy says. “I knew where to source seafood, and I was already connected to the customer base, so I went to the bank and got a personal line of credit, bought a 79 Dodge pickup truck, and went into business for myself.”

And that’s how Tommy’s Seafood was born. Knowing a good reputation goes a long way, he always kept his promise to customers, and the business began to grow substantially.

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