Brian Bochan; Owner, Captain Brian’s Seafood Market & RestaurantBrian Bochan

Owner, Captain Brian’s Seafood Market & Restaurant

The BP oil spill was Brian Bochan’s biggest crisis in his 28 years of operating Captain Brian’s Seafood Market & Restaurant. Revenues fell 20 percent to 30 percent, he says, and “People were leery of fish and shrimp coming from the Gulf. I still get customers questioning the safety of the fish.”  Bochan, 56, persevered. Today he employs 40 people in his 150-seat restaurant and adjacent 1,000-square-foot fish market, and earns annual revenues of $1.5 million to $2.2 million. His latest expansion is a yogurt shop right next door.

How did you get started? I had a job deep sea fishing when I was going to Riverview High School. After graduation in 1974, I got my captain’s license and did commercial fishing. In 1984 I opened a small fish market. I added fish-and-chips and sandwiches. That became a full sit-down restaurant in 1988. I ended up at this location 10 years ago.

What takes most of your time? Ordering and buying fish. I buy about a thousand pounds a week from all over, Cortez, Tarpon Springs, Tampa. For stone crabs I go south to Naples. I get fish you can’t get here from New England.

How do you shop? I’ll go to the docks. I can tell by the freshness and firmness, and the smell. You have to know the people and how they handle the fish when they are out there fishing. If I am ordering by phone, I know the purveyors and they know me. They know I will check what they send me. It’s all experience.

The secret of your success? Hard work. Serve high-quality fish. Cook simply and keep the place clean.

Your favorite fish to eat? Grouper or snook. I like them grilled or pan sautéed.

Your business background? I never studied business. But my mother has been my bookkeeper from the beginning, and that is a total advantage. She is great. Her name is Violet and she is 85 years old. She loves coming in here.

Does your father help? He is 92 and has slowed down, but he likes to come for dinner.

Your after-hours passion? I have a house on Cayo Costa, a barrier island south of Boca Grande. It is only accessible by boat. I go when I can, usually on Saturday afternoon, and come back Monday morning. I hang out there, go fishing, go to the beach, cook, relax.

Proudest achievement? Raising two kids and building up this business from scratch. I did it all. It is not a franchise or a chain. It was just an idea.

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