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Bulloch loves its fresh fish
Mascarellos take over Eagle Family Seafood
W BIZ EAGLE SEAFOOD 11
Tammy Mascarello weighs some blue crabs for a customer at Eagle Family Seafood on South Zetterower in Statesboro. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
      There is no denying that the residents of Bulloch County love fish. They like to catch them, cook them, eat them and brag about them. Both fresh water and salt water fish are equally loved, and local fish and seafood merchants know that now is the time of year when sales are at their peak.
       "My wife Debbie and I bought this business in 1993," said Don Edwards, owner of Statesboro Seafood Market on Highway 301 North near the intersection of North Main Street. "Her mother was the owner at the time. It took two years before we were really able to make a go of it. But once sales got to a certain level, I was able to quit my job at King Finishing and do this full time."
       Edwards said the seafood and fish business can be a little tricky. He also said that people might be surprised to learn as with other businesses, there is a seasonality to it.
       "The winter months are clearly better," he said. "June, July, and August are traditionally our slowest months. I don't know why that is, but it has always been that way."
       Eagle Family Seafood owner Steven Mascarello said during this holiday season he has seen a huge increase in demand for oysters and shrimp.
       "People get together for the holidays and they want to do a low country boil or roast some oysters," he said. "It is a way of celebrating, and it is big down here. Until my wife Tammy and I bought this business this past August, I had no idea about that. But now that we are in it, it makes completely good sense. We have had a very good holiday season so far."
       The Mascarellos said they were approached by the former owner of the business located on Zetterower Avenue about buying it.
       "Steve had been fish gigging with Gene (Thompson) a couple of times before, and had gotten interested in that," Tammy Mascarello said. "Gene asked him if he would be interested in buying the business, and we began to look into it."
       Steven Mascarello owns Westside Automotive on West Main Street. His wife works as the assistant director of the radiology department at East Georgia Regional Medical Center. The Mascarellos admit that neither knew a whole lot about the seafood business going into it, but felt it would be a good family enterprise.
       "We did a lot of research and due diligence, and felt like it might serve as a college fund for the children," she said. "It has turned out better than we could have imagined in that the kids love working down here, and we spend our Saturdays together. It really has been a lot of fun, and we have really enjoyed it."
       With a packed store on Saturdays, Edwards said you never know what sales are going to be, and you never know what the customer will want on any given day.
       "In our market, croaker, mullet, and tilapia are the big sellers this time of year," he said. "We have suppliers that come to us from the Carolinas and up the coast. The fish is so fresh, and we will dress it any way that you want us to. But, I tell you, it is hard to guess what the customer is going to want. It can be very different from one day to the next."
       Mascarello said that customers can be frustrated when supplies run short. "So much of what we get is dependent upon the weather," he said. "If the weather along the coast is bad, they will not fish. You can't crab or get oysters, for example, if it is really windy or the swells are too high. That's just the way it goes."
       Mascarello said that is why he has encouraged his customers to place orders by the 17th of December for holiday feasts.
       "This time of year involves a lot of special ordering to make sure that your supplier has planned for what you need," he said. "I encourage people to go ahead and let us know what you will need. That gives us the best opportunity to get that order filled."
       Mascarello's sons Mikal and Spencer have become an integral part of the market's operation. "I love working down here with my mom and dad," said eight-year-old Mikal Mascarello. "I've learned about money, and I've learned a whole lot about fish, and oysters, and crabs. This is the most fun."
       Also, L&D Produce has a fish/seafood market inside of its produce operation on East Main Street in Statesboro.