Fresh, regionally sourced and wild. That’s what Charlie Counts delivers to customers at Westlake Farmers Market.
Local Seafood Delivery has been serving Roanoke and the surrounding area for more than 10 years, and now Counts is adding the lake to his service area.
Counts did not dream of being a fish monger when he graduated from Roanoke College in 2010. He just sort of fell into it. It all started on a family vacation to Topsail Island, North Carolina. Counts’ family has spent many vacations there, and brought home fresh caught seafood to eat back in Virginia.
On one trip they shared part of their cooler with Harvest Table Restaurant in Meadowview. The fresh seafood was such a hit at the farm-to-table restaurant, a light bulb went off for Counts.
“I saw an opportunity and went for it,” said Counts, who was fresh out of college at the time and looking for a job. “I thought if it went over that well there, other restaurants and people might want fresh seafood.”
The Counts family are no strangers to the local food movement. They had been raising black Angus cattle on a farm in Southwest Virginia.
“People want to know where their food comes from,” Counts said. “During the pandemic, people really started thinking about where their food comes from, mostly out of fear, and they wanted to eat healthier.”
When the restaurant side of Counts’ business dried up during the lockdown, he saw more retail business, as well as new clients. People were looking for healthier options and trusted sources to get their food. Picking up and delivering food is only part of Counts’ business. The other part is education.
“We are raising people’s awareness of seafood, what it is and where it comes from,” Counts said. “For most fish there is a season. Mahi Mahi doesn’t technically have a season in North Carolina. But for the most part there is a season either imposed by government regulations or nature.”
After a decade in business, Counts estimates he has driven 250,000 miles. He heads to North Carolina to pick up the fresh seafood on Wednesdays for delivery on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Customers place their orders on the business website, www.localseafooddelivery.com, by 10 p.m. Sunday. Counts said there are no guarantees the supply will meet the demand as Counts is at the mercy of what the sea offers the fishermen.
Counts makes his delivery to the lake on Saturdays at Westlake Farmers Market at 45 Enterprise Road in Hardy. “We just got into the Smith Mountain Lake market, so we want to grow our business there and get into some restaurants,” hesaid.
Like most, Counts added he is looking forward to things getting back to some sort of normal along with the opportunity to meet people once again without a face mask.
“I enjoy the people,” he said said. “I get enjoyment from the people I meet on the docks, the people I sell to, the people I see every week when I am on the road and stop for gas or food. I enjoy the people I in every aspect of this business.”