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Is the rumor true about how Sal's Fresh Seafood got started?

As Sal's Fresh Seafood celebrates its 17th year here at the farm, we heard an interesting rumor about how it all started.

We weren't sure if it was true, so we went fishing for the truth.

You may have heard that Sal Bramante's family has been in the seafood business since his grandfather started working on a fishing boat in Boston in 1905 as a newly arrived immigrant from Sicily.

But how did his great-granddaughter, Crystal, end up working with her mom, Janice, selling seafood in our farm market?

"I was a bit bored," Janice admits with her infectious laugh. "Crystal had graduated from Inter-Lakes and went off to college. Sal was still working at the fish pier in Boston and only here on the weekends. I had what I thought was a crazy idea. I never expected it would be anything beyond a hobby that lasted for a few weeks."

What was Janice's idea?

To sell fresh fish and seafood directly from the fish pier in Boston at Moulton Farm. "I wasn't sure people would come to the farm to buy fish," she told us. "But I did know that Sal could get really amazing fish because of the business his grandfather had started." After working on someone else's fishing boat, Salvatore Bramante eventually got his own boat and crew. As his family grew to 13 children, his fishing fleet also grew.

"My father naturally got involved at a young age," recalls Sal. "He became the captain of one of his father's boats at age 16, something we couldn't imagine now." As the years at the docks passed, Dominic Bramante and his brothers looked to the future. "Fishing is a very hard life financially and physically. The sea can provide well or take your life and livelihood," explains Sal.

"My dad and his brothers knew they wanted a different life for their kids. I remember loving being on the boats when I was just six or seven and not wanting to go back to school, but my dad had different ideas. By the time I was a teenager, our family was running a fish processing operation at the fish pier.

When I married Janice, we were handling fish from Boston, New Bedford, and Gloucester and shipping it all over the country and Canada."

Having been involved with the Bramante boats and family fish processing plant, Janice knew quality fish and how even 24 hours could quickly turn exceptionally good fish into average fish. "Sal could bring me excellent fish directly from the fish pier, and it could be on someone's plate in just over 24 hours from when the boat docked. That makes a huge difference in quality, and it's something most supermarkets can't do."

So Janice floated her "crazy idea" with Sal and John Moulton. "I knew John and loved buying his fresh vegetables at the farm. I wasn't sure the idea would work, but then it was only supposed to be a hobby!" 

She started selling fish and seafood in our farm market one day a week, and within less than a month, it was clear that she needed to expand her hours.

From 2007 to 2020, the business Janice chose to call "Sal's Fresh Seafood" grew steadily. When the pandemic hit in 2020, many businesses struggled, but Sal's Fresh Seafood grew. That's when Crystal started working full-time with her mom, although she'd been helping occasionally before that.

"It's amazing to see what my mom's "hobby" has become. Even though we're only selling fish Thursday through Saturday, it's a full-time business because we take orders from our customers throughout the week for them to pick up on those days.

When my dad goes to the fish pier Boston on Wednesdays and Fridays, he's looking for both what Mom wants for the fish case and what our customers have ordered."

While many of those orders are relatively easy for someone with Sal's connections to get, sometimes they are more unusual. One of them was something his grandfather never would have considered: uni, the organs of sea urchins that produce sea urchin roe. "Another time, it was eels for Christmas, but they had to be alive when the person picked them up because of her family tradition," remembers Sal. "We got them for her, which made her holiday, and ours, special."

"Am I proud of the business Janice has built? Does a fish swim?!" he says with a laugh. He's also happy Crystal is now part of the business. "My grandfather could never have imagined it when he started on a fishing boat in Boston in 1905, but he'd be darned proud of them!"

"I never expected Sal's Fresh Seafood to become what it is," says Janice. "But we've been blessed."


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