Ashley Besecker, left, and Joci Besecker are sisters-in-law and co-owners of Mercer Island’s Premier Catch. Photo courtesy of Amy Haag

Ashley Besecker, left, and Joci Besecker are sisters-in-law and co-owners of Mercer Island’s Premier Catch. Photo courtesy of Amy Haag

Beseckers reel in business idea to launch Premier Catch

They sell fresh seafood at pop-up shops.

As if they weren’t already close, the Mercer Island Besecker sisters-in-law’s bonds have become even tighter after launching a business together.

With Premier Catch, Ashley and Joci have hooked onto a business model that not only pleases the duo, but its throng of customers as well.

Health, quality and convenience reigns supreme for the Beseckers, who began selling fresh seafood to people from their pop-up shops on Mercer Island and other nearby cities on June 29.

“I have come to appreciate our relationship and friendship even more, and love the time that all of us have spent getting it off the ground,” said Joci, adding that the duo’s husbands are brothers and best friends.

Ashley’s husband Tyler runs the family’s seafood company, Dana F. Besecker Company, which his father — and company namesake — began on Mercer Island in 1989. Joci’s husband Jeff is also deeply involved with the family company.

Going even further back in time, the elder Besecker started his fish-buying journey involving customers worldwide more than 50 years ago. Ashley’s great-grandfather was a halibut fisherman more than 100 years ago on a Seattle vessel that is still involved in halibut fishing to this day.

In the present day, the Premier Catch co-owners and moms hatched their business idea in the April-May timeframe while they were adjusting to being quarantined and not being able to eat out at restaurants. They also thought about how other families were missing the restaurant experience.

“We sat down and we said, ‘Let’s try and figure out how we can make this commodity that is available to consumers for their home. How would we like it?’” said Joci, adding that they’re reeling in the freshest, high-quality fish available from their suppliers and offering six- to eight-ounce portions for their customers.

Premier Catch’s portions are bone out, individually backpacked and all of their fish is flash frozen right after they’re caught on the docks in Alaska or on the Washington and Oregon coasts. They receive salmon and king crab from Alaska, with the salmon flown in through Alaska Airlines; and they receive sablefish, halibut and Dungeness crab from the Bellingham docks, where it is processed, frozen and packaged for them.

On pop-up mornings, they drive to Bellingham and Alaska Airlines to pick up their product, which is hauled to the shop site in a freezer van they bought from someone in California. Once in the van, the product is deep frozen from -5 to -20 degrees.

Ashley said the pop-up shops are thriving and the co-owners have gained a good reputation and trust from the community. They want to make things as easy and efficient as possible for families in the food department.

“If we connect with people that we love and people know us and trust us, we can pop up a tent, put our freezer van out and mask up, glove up, design a way that people can drive up, pop their trunk and we can put frozen product in a really nice freezer bag for them, and they can drive off,” she said, adding that they also place their extra product in a commercial hold storage facility until pop-up time.

The enjoyment and health factors are shining through the experience at a premium.

“It’s been really fun and fulfilling for us to see and hear from people that they really love the product. A lot of people are eating more seafood, so from a health standpoint, people are like, ‘I’ve never eaten this healthy in my life,’” added Ashley, who also works as a dietician; Joci is also a part-time interior designer.

The Beseckers pop up their shops every two to three weeks and they participated in the last two Mercer Island Farmers Markets in September. In addition to continuing their visits to local cities, they’ll set up at the Mercer Island Harvest Market on Nov. 22. Premier Catch recently formed a partnership with Eat Local on Mercer Island and will have regular weekly pick-up hours — which are currently 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays — and the Beseckers will soon be shipping their products directly to homes around the United States.

When asked about each others’ strengths, Ashley brings the nutrition knowledge and tech skill set to the table, and Joci is well-organized, detail oriented and unleashes her creativity in the graphics department.

Joci said that she often finds herself reflecting about how the business idea came to fruition. They’ve put hard work and passion into the experience and enjoy sharing their success with their husbands.

“It’s been incredible to see all four of us, especially Ashley and I, kind of naturally fall into different roles within the business. We each have very different strengths and we just kind of naturally work really well together, and I think each bring something really special to the business,” Joci said.

For Premier Catch pop-up shop information, visit https://www.premiercatch.com/


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