It is early morning, but it is anything but tranquil at Gosman’s Wholesale Fish Market, just off the town dock in Montauk. Over 100 wholesale order slips cover a table. Rock ‘n’ roll is playing in the background as about 18 employees sort, scale, clean, and box fish and shellfish fresh from the sea. It is a scene of energetic, organized chaos, though that is deceiving. In truth, the operation runs like a machine.
“We bring in fish from all over the place, plus, of course, our local fish,” Asa Gosman said. As he spoke, he was filling a container destined for one of the many East End restaurants the wholesale outfit supplies on a daily basis with sea scallops. “A lot of it comes from our own docks. Certain species — fluke, striped bass, sea scallops. Tuna, when in season. Then a lot of stuff comes from all over the place. These big scallops come from New Jersey. The wild salmon, the west coast of Canada. These mussels are from Canada, these cockles from New Zealand.”
But the local fish, and local fishing boats, are always important. “The St. Anthony is a big one for us,” Gosman said. “Fluke in season, and sea bass. Unfortunately, in New York, sea bass is closed right now. Fluke was closed for two weeks. It just opened back up.” There is always a Plan B. No local fluke? “We had to source fluke from Massachusetts and New Jersey where fluke was open. We have relationships with dealers and fishermen in those states so we get good fish.”
Besides the St. Anthony, Gosman said, “We got a lot of monk fish, lobster, and sea bass in season from the Lady K. We just got a whole lot of tile fish from the Sea Capture, local scallops from a boat called the New Species. Then we get striped bass from Danny D’Albora (the Freedom) and from Travis Kelly (the Amy Lee).”
Besides fresh fish, Gosman has a freezer full of frozen shrimp and calamari. “Any seafood product you see on a menu in a restaurant, we sell it. Today we will send six trucks out from here to Hampton Bays, and then Shelter Island and the whole East End area, and another truck will go farther west. The majority of the business is in the Hamptons. And, of course, Montauk.” He said the company makes more than 100 deliveries a day.
Each worker has his own station. They laugh and joke, but they work with well-trained hands. Streams of fresh water flow through hoses, keeping each work station clean. Mountains of crushed ice are on hand to pack and preserve the fish as they make, in many cases, their final journey. Against one wall, three men are scaling and cleaning fish, something they will do throughout the day. Another man is cleaning halibut. “It’s a pleasure to work with these guys,” Wayne Berkofer said as he cut into the fish.
John Derrico is next to him. He is cleaning the Bronzini. That particular fish, he said, is an acquired taste. Behind him, in the middle of the room is an island of tables. Kleber Sanmartin is carving up large tuna loin. Gosman is now opposite him, working on a tuna loin himself. Usually the tuna is yellowfin, but recently, a giant bluefin, over 500 pounds, came in. It went right out to the sushi restaurants the wholesale business supplies, Gosman said.
Gosman’s was founded by Mary and Robert Gosman in 1943. Mary Gosman sold homemade clam chowder. The business expanded to what it is now, a complex of stores, restaurants, the famous retail shop, and the wholesale operation. Originally, the wholesale division, which was founded about 20 years ago, was divided into two parts, fish and lobster. They were merged about 10 years ago. Asa has been working alongside his cousins, Bryan and John Gosman, since the expanded wholesale department opened.
On the floor, which is constantly hosed, are pallets on which boxes marked for different restaurants and stores sit. Over the course of a couple of hours, the pallets fill with iced fish, the trucks are loaded, and off they go.
All except for one. The biggest truck leaves in the evening. That truck is loaded with catch from local fishing boats that Gosman’s doesn’t need. “We buy fish from direct vendors from all over the country and the world and it ships in to the Bronx. We pick up and we bring it back to Montauk to distribute. We could be picking up anything from a black sea bass from New Jersey to a tuna from half way around the world or a halibut from Nova Scotia or mussels from Canada.” The truck arrives back in Montauk around 10 in the morning, setting off another whirlwind of activity.