Purvis Fisheries takes the catch to the street

Purvis Fisheries Logo

BURNT ISLAND – When it comes to healthy fine dining it’s hard to top fresh fish, but for many Islanders the catch has been slim since the advent of the pandemic. Times have not been all that great for those engaged in the fishing industry either, as a drop in restaurant sales have taken a heavy toll on the market. But Purvis Fisheries of Burnt Island has been in operation for five generations and have not lost the determined spirit of the Purvis Brothers who emigrated from the Scottish fishing port of Abroath in 1851, seeking fresh waters in which to dip their nets. Recently, the company has taken to delivering fish to doorsteps across Manitoulin, revisiting the routes of the milk and dairy delivery trucks of a bygone era—but it isn’t for the faint of heart.

“We have done it twice now,” said sales and marketing manager Denise Purvis. “It is a lot of work.”

Early hours and long days have always been the hallmark of those engaged in the fishing industry, but this operation takes things to a whole new level.

“We have the trucks loaded at around 10 in the morning when we set out and we didn’t get done until around 10 pm at night,” she said. One truck heads across one route that covers the western communities while a second heads out to the east.

“Usually we take it and drop it at someone’s doorstep,” said Ms. Purvis. “We usually don’t even see the people, but a lot do come out to say thanks as we are walking away.”

Payment is arranged beforehand with electronic transfers or credit card purchases.

The first shipments were of whitefish and trout, two of the company’s most popular items, with a little perch going out as well. The company also markets a fish dip that is taking the market by storm these days.

The shipments are not yet taking place on a regular schedule, remaining somewhat intermittent for the time being, so customers are advised to keep their eye on the company’s website or Facebook page.

“We put the option out there on our Facebook page and on the Manitoulin Buy and Sell and Marketplace sites,” said Ms. Purvis. There is usually only a two-day notice given when the trucks will be going out.

The deliveries are filling in the space that would normally be taken by the Purvis Fisheries attendance at local farmers’ markets, but with those venues still somewhat up in the air for the coming season, the fish deliveries have a niche.

In a number of cases, the delivery truck has made a stop at the Welcome Centre building parking lot in Little Current where they met a number of customers from across the region. 

Denise Purvis, right, and daughter Avery Sheppard have been making the rounds across Manitoulin of late, offering home deliveries as a way to help move product.

“It helps to have a group of people meet us at one location,” said Ms. Purvis, who noted that people are good at following social distancing while collecting their packages. “We try to discourage one-pound orders,” admitted Ms. Purvis. “It is just too small an order to go from place to place and deliver, but we do try to accommodate people where we can.”

The company is considering making another run during the first week in June, so check out the webpage for details.

“People can order on our website,” said Ms. Purvis. “We have an online link on our website—then we will post the delivery date.”