Bringing Fish to the Pacific
Adventures in Business
March 19, 1948
By Nichols Field Wilson
Three miles from the ocean in metropolitan Los Angeles there is a new restaurant serving fresh lake fish expressed by air daily from Wisconsin. If it seems strange to you that fish should be sent half way across the country to the shores of the pacific bear in mind that this is fresh water fish from the Great Lakes that is caught and shipped by Smith Bros., who have for years built a famous eating place in their home state -- popular FISH SHANTY -- famous among lovers of good food and a Duncan Hines “must” in his "Adventures In Eating.”
Now visitors may enjoy the very same lake Superior White Fish and other fresh water fish from the Great Lakes that easterners enjoy thanks to air transportation, modern ice packing and that 100-year old SMITH BROS. Fish Shanty!
Captain Oliver Smith is the grandson of a successful pioneer, and is carrying on a family business founded by Gilbert Smith who began a commercial fishing venture in Amsterdam, Wisconsin in 1848.
Gilbert’s son Delos Smith carried on by spreading the family business into several Great Lakes ports. When Delos retired in 1930, his son Oliver Smith became president of Smith Brothers.
“In 1924, a flood forced us to make progress,” admits Captain Smith. “The waters demolished our fish shanties down on the docks and compelled us to find other quarters. First we rented a vacant store. Now we own the entire city block. There are our offices, market, and the first Fish Shanty Restaurant. THAT FLOOD WAS A FORTUNATE CALAMITY!”
From Port Washington, Smith Brothers expanded to other Great lakes ports. They built docks, fish smokeries, and processing plants. They ordered a fleet of tugs. Their flagship is the most modern steel tug on the Lakes.
Captain Oliver’s mother successfully processed caviar from lake fish. For centuries, caviar was made from sturgeon roe. Smith Brothers developed their own methods and sell throughout the world. They are the largest producers of domestic caviar.
“A taste delight” best describes Smith Brothers’ smoked fish. Fresh lake chubs are cleaned, strung on rods, arid smoked over slow-burning fires of clean birch wood.
About the time Captain Oliver became president, Smith Bros. Fish Shanty became known as an outstanding place to eat. The first wonder-food was a fish sandwich. It was SO good that public demand created a new enterprise and expanded fish sandwiches to full dinners of delicious lake fish.
Smith Bros. Fish Shanty became a mecca for eastern gourmets. Fame spread. People moved West, wrote homesick letters to folks back home, hoped to return to dine at The Fish Shanty. Captain Oliver and Evelyn Smith, sister, brought The Fish Shanty to the west. They discovered a fine location and built a new Fish Shanty on pacific Coast Highway between Wilmington and Redondo Beach on Los Angeles’ doorstep three miles from Redondo’s pounding Pacific surf.
Folk from Wisconsin and those who know good food dine with delight. They are welcomed and graciously made to feel at home by the California manager, Miss Bernice Stark.
Service to our country is one of Smith Brothers’ ideals. Early in Oliver’s career, he saw that fish were one of the nation’s fast-dwindling natural resources. He became a prime mover in fish conservation. As Captain of the fishing fleet and president of the corporation, Oliver personally directs the work in the interests of today’s customers and tomorrow’s posterity.
During World War II, Smith Brothers caught, packed, and processed fish in quantities sufficient to attract the attention of a grateful government. A general was sent to present the "A” Award to the fish people.
“That such activities as yours are remarkably successful,” said Gen. Barzynski, “has been due in no small measure to the understanding and enterprise of the citizens of your community."
“It is indeed a great honor to present you of Smith Bros. this token of achievement. Consider it a battle flag won during this great conflict. Soldiers of Supply,” he concluded, “I salute you.”
100 years in the life of a nation, of a famous family and a century old example of success in the free enterprise of America.
Cover page (above). Inside left (below)
Inside right (below)
Adventures in Business: The original photo of the long line at the Smith Bros. Fish Shanty in Port Washington, Wisconsin.