by RONA MANN/Photos by Jeffery Lilly

What can you say about a fish market?

It just seems pretty obvious. It’s a marketplace that sells fish. End of story.

DSC00777Not so fast. Not when it comes to Atlantic Seafood Market, the fish market that changed the tide and raised the bar on fish markets in Connecticut twelve years ago when a savvy young woman who grew up in the northern Connecticut town of Enfield traded in her love of handbags and heels for swordfish and tuna.

Lisa Feinman is a very engaging, pleasant individual who smiles easily and seems completely unruffled by anything that might be thrown at her. But do not mistake her sweet exterior and ready smile for weakness. This is one tough cookie when it comes to business and for not settling for anything other than the real thing, the best thing, and the freshest things, for she would never tamper with the loyalty of her legion of consistent   customers who depend on knowing exactly what they can expect each time they buy their meals at Atlantic Seafood.

Feinman had always been drawn to business, fascinated by retail. Although her college major was psychology and she subsequently earned a real estate license, it was the business world that constantly drew her close. “I always had a penchant for business,” Feinman admitted. “I always wanted to run and own my own business. The product didn’t matter that much so long as I could be a service to people…a value to the community.”

So how does selling fish come under service and value to the community? It’s a very special philosophy, and the only the way Feinman knows how to run Atlantic Seafood Market.

“I looked at it this way from the first. Why Atlantic Seafood? Why should someone choose us? Why should they be driving down the road, turn on their blinker, and turn in here? And that’s how I conceived this business…on the “why” of people coming here. At the time I started Atlantic Seafood I had two small children and asked myself why  would I want to shop here? The answer was simple. Dinner! This offered dinner like I would make it…fresh, clean, healthy. And ready for me to cook.”

It was that premise and with those values on which Feinman built her business and why it continues to grow exponentially since she doubled the size of the market space the first year. Standing in the pristine kitchen of the fish market Lisa Feinman is resolute. “We sell clean fish. We don’t add color, there are no pesticides, no GMOs. We don’t do what others do to make a dollar. Our commitment to freshness is a big deal.”

Such a big deal in fact that Feinman invested in a machine costing more than $20,000 that does nothing more than clean and devein the Gulf shrimp Atlantic Seafood proudly sells. “Everyone always talks about our shrimp and what makes it so much better than any other shrimp,” she adds, “and there’s the reason for it. We only buy shrimp from the Gulf, and every employee I have knows how to clean and devein it. When we purchase our fish and seafood, price is not our number one factor…what is number one is a clean, healthy product. We don’t mess around in gray areas. Our food is clean and healthy,   based on quality, not price.”

Joining Feinman in this business mantra is Chef Jerry Doran. A gourmet chef is an unusual employee to find in a fish market, but just another reason Atlantic Seafood is not just another fish market. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Doran has plied his trade at the Four Seasons in Boston, The Meetinghouse in Bedford Village, and La Cremaillere in Pound Ridge, New York. He decided to settle in Old Saybrook to raise his family in this wonderful shoreline community, which is a win-win for everyone as he provides a unique asset to Atlantic Seafood. “Everything Chef Jerry makes is from scratch,” Lisa says proudly. “And that includes salads, salad dressings, soups, and cakes: crab cakes, dill salmon cakes, lobster cakes, cod cakes, and more.”

The “more” of which Lisa speaks includes such mouth watering made from scratch healthy sides as broccoli salad, two different types of coleslaw, ahi tuna salad, marinated lemon and dill shrimp salad, and a wonderful selection of what Chef Jerry calls “Toppers.” These are small portions of sauces and seasonings that will “top” fish perfectly. Choose from wasabi-ginger-soy, migonette for oysters, vidalia onion and orange, fresh dill, lobster, and horseradish. There are three different chowders available to take home every day, plus during the winter months, a fresh, hot soup of the day is whipped up by the chef in the Atlantic Seafood kitchen. Come May, Chef Jerry will be making mouth watering fresh lobster rolls daily.

Not sure what you want for dinner this evening? If the cases of trout, local blackfish, Chilean sea bass, monkfish, haddock, hake, shrimp, tilapia, scallops, flounder, and Icelandic cod don’t tempt you, look in the refrigerated section for lobster pie, clam and sausage pie, shrimp or scallop pie, gluten free crab cakes, or a perfectly portioned tilapia with fresh picked lobster meat. On each container Feinman has imprinted, “Eat right, live well.” It’s not just a slogan…it’s what she believes, what Chef Jerry believes, and what the chef’s staff: Charlie, Lynn, Gil, Sam, and Alice believe. That’s why Feinman employed them and why they stay. And most important of all, it’s why people come from miles around to what many shoreline customers call “the best fish market in Connecticut.” But don’t just believe them…Zagat has rated Atlantic Seafood 26 out of a possible 30 for their fresh, delicious food, while the Old Saybrook Chamber of Commerce has designated them Business of the Year. All of this is gratifying to Lisa Feinman who devotes herself not just to high quality and freshness, but to the premium she places on the personal service shown each and every customer.

“I always tell my staff to do whatever it takes to wow the customer. We don’t stop and think about it; we just do it,” Feinman says.

One of the things they do without giving it a second thought is deliver to those customers who because of inclement weather, age, or illness are no longer able to come pick up their orders. While Atlantic Seafood doesn’t routinely advertise a delivery service, they never think twice about providing one for those who need it.

“It’s a commitment,” Lisa says. Then as an afterthought she flashes that famous, warm smile and adds, “It’s a commitment to being a person.”

Turn your blinker on and turn into 1400 Boston Post Road (Rt. 1) in Old Saybrook
(860) 388-4527  www.atlanticseafoodmarket.com
Open year ’round, seven days a week…what are you waiting for?

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