People migrate to Key West and the Florida Keys for many reasons, but some can’t leave because of the water, wind, the sky, or the sand in your flip flops. The partners of the Key West Smoked Fish Company came to the Florida Keys with different talents and passions and have stayed with a common interest to make the best Smoked Fish Dip possible.
Bob came down in 1988 from upstate New York with a traveling band to the Pier House for a six-week gig and never left. He teamed up with Keith Ricks and played island music in Key West for years, producing six albums.
Tom came down from Jersey in 1984 for the warm weather and fishing the blue water. He worked at an architectural firm but later acquired a restaurant up the keys in Sugarloaf. Reggae music was featured on Sunday nights, that’s when Tom met Bob and Keith while playing as the musical group One World. Bob’s brother, Kevin, arrived in 2009 from Missouri. He sold his insurance agency, left his suit in the closet, and came down to the Keys to be close to family.
In 2008, Bob and Tom put together what money they could, and started Key West Smoked Fish Company. Renting a small space next to a law firm, behind a bakery, they started making small batches of smoked fish dip for local restaurants. The name of the product Smilin’ Bob’s came about as a joke because Bob rarely smiled. The first break into the big box retail market was Albertsons throughout the state of Florida. Kevin took his salesmanship talents on the road traveling to supermarkets and independent retailers, introducing our family recipe via in-store demonstrations.
FAST FORWARD TEN YEARS
The company has outgrown the small space and has taken over the law firm, bakery space, and bought the lot next door. It has survived the Deep Water Horizon oil spill and a direct hit from Hurricane Irma. The company now has two custom smokers, a forklift, extra refrigeration, and storage to meet the demands of Smilin Bob’s fans. A custom-built cupping machine has brought automation to the packaging process. Our dedicated employees smoke the fish, slice and dice, mix the dip, then pack and ship it out.
Bob and Kevin have gained footholds in Winn-Dixie, Publix, Whole Foods, and Sam’s Club. Along with sales and shipping logistics, Bob implements the testing and plant food safety programs. By doing this, we are meeting the requirements for the FDA and the third-party safety audits. Kevin heads up the team of in-store demonstration personnel and oversees the direct distribution to over 155 independent retail stores and restaurants. Tom procures the needed fish and plans the plant expansions to meet future demands for the fish dip.
FOR THE FUTURE
The story will be written again in another ten years. This success would never be possible without the dedicated customers who return time and again to buy Smilin’ Bob’s Smoked Fish Dip. One thing is for sure… Bob, Tom & Kevin, and over one million customers are Smilin’ a lot more these days.