According to their website, Afishionado is dedicated to bringing the fishing traditions of Nova Scotia back to the plates of consumers and, as much as possible, maintaining close relationships with those who catch the fish, while fostering a fair, transparent and sustainable exchange of seafood in the province. In addition to its seafood offerings, Afishionado also organizes instructional workshops, cooking classes and public events.
Hana Nelson was kind enough to sit down for Small Scales and answer some questions about her business.
Why did you decide to start running a fishmongers?
I wanted to start a spot that would make sustainable fish available to HRM consumers year round! I use OceanWise to help guide my choices, but that’s not always easy because there’s not always been a assessment of the smaller fisheries in Atlantic Canadian that have been done in their program.
I wanted to be a place where people could come and learn the stories of our fishermen and aquaculturalists. I think what they do is so important for the fabric of food security in our region, their experiences really need to communicated and celebrated.
What were some of the challenges you faced when you were first starting out?
Figuring out what’s a good choice to buy and what’s not – when is it in season, and can I buy in bulk and freeze the rest while it’s in season? Will consumers buy frozen product?
Will suppliers sell to me because I’m such a small buyer to them? Logistics!! How to get fishermen’s catches to Halifax rather quickly – will fishermen be willing to siphon off a little bit of their supply to me, which will be much more work for them?
On the plus, I’ve been amazed at how supportive fishermen and aquaculturalists have been to my venture. They do want to see their product being enjoyed in their region. And for most of them, the extra work is worth it.
What do you like best about running Afishionado?
I love interacting with customers and telling them about where the fish and shellfish they see comes from and how it was caught/harvested. But more importantly I really like interacting with the producers and fishermen that come in, call, or that I visit. It’s a learning experience for me every time.
What are some of the most common things you hear from your customers?
People want to know where their fish comes from. They want to be connected to the stories that make our fishing communities.
People also want to know what the heck to do with the stuff they’ve never seen before. It’s really important to try new recipes and to talk to customers about how to do that, to ease them into it.
Of the seafood you regularly carry, what’s your favourite and why?
Everything changes so often and that’s what I love. When I first opened striped bass was available, and it was delicious! Then a couple month later, fresh shrimp started, then the best smelt I’ve ever had, now I’ve been impatiently awaiting the ice to melt so that I can get gaspereau/herring/mackerel/flounder. Oh and the oysters, the ice this year has been brutal!
Do you have any events coming up? Big plans for the future?
I want to keep hosting cooking classes for the public and get a lobster tank – and stay tuned for new, dedicated space for the Afishionado shop!