0629SEAFOODAUDPhuong Le, owner of Atlanta Highway Seafood Market, talks about what led him to open his Gainesville business.
A lack of seafood markets in Hall County and a longtime love for the seafood industry that he grew up in drove Mississippi-born Phuong Le to give up a career in car body repair and start his own business.
And even though the hours are much longer, including a once-a-week trip to the Gulf Coast, Le is, one might say, happy as a clam.
"This is absolutely rewarding, providing fresh fish for people," said Le, owner of Atlanta Highway Seafood Market at 227 Atlanta Highway, off Hazel Street in Gainesville.
Le had worked at area dealerships for the past 10 years, "but ever since I came up here, I always wondered why we didn’t have a seafood market here," he said.
"I kept thinking about that, and that actually became a passion. It’s been my ultimate goal to open a seafood market."
Le, a native of Biloxi, Miss., worked at a shrimp factory as a teenager.
"I’ve been around seafood pretty much all my life," he said. "... My dad used to be a shrimper. My father-in-law still is a shrimper."
Shrimp might be the first thing a customer spots walking up to the counter of his store, as the crustaceans are spread across two large, ice-filled sections of the freezer making an L shape in his store.
But Le has a wide array of seafood delights, including salmon, clams, oysters, tilapia, catfish, mahi-mahi and grouper.
Le’s business also features trout caught from the Hiawassee River in the North Georgia mountains.
Le sells Styrofoam coolers for customers needing to haul their fish a long distance. He also uses ice in double-bagging fish for customers with shorter trips.
And for those not so interested in filleting fish and throwing them on the grill or whatever, Le’s market will cook the food to order.
He serves up fried shrimp dinners, po’ boys sub sandwiches and seafood platters, along with side items such as potato salad and cole slaw.
Le, who adheres to family recipes, personally favors gumbo and po’ boys.
He operates the business with his wife, Lily, who is expecting a child in July. His brother and sister are helping out during the summer, then plan to return home to Mississippi.
Le’s business, which has a small dining area (mainly a counter and some bar stools), is open Tuesday through Sundays. On most Mondays, he drives to the coast to pick up fish. On Fridays, he has another driver pick up fish.
"With something like the shrimp, we go right up to the boats," he said. "... We pick up crab with people at the boat docks.
"It takes a little bit longer time, but it cuts out the middleman. It saves a little bit of money, and we pass on the savings to our customer."
His business also sells sauces, mixes and other items for cooking at home.