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Local business feels impact from Gulf disaster
Phuong Le, owner of Atlanta Highway Seafood Market, picks up a Gulf grouper that he has stored in the freezer Monday. Le gets 90 percent of his fresh fish and seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, but he is having trouble with supplies due to the oil spill in Gulf waters. - photo by SARA GUEVARA


Listen as Phuong Le explains how the massive oil spill in the Gulf is affecting his Gainesville business, Atlanta Highway Seafood Market.
Phuong Le has prided himself on getting fresh seafood from the Gulf of Mexico for his Gainesville restaurant.

At first, he or another employee took weekly trips to the coast to gather up shrimp, oysters and fish. Later, as his business grew, he relied on drivers bringing deliveries closer to home.

He gets 90 percent of his seafood from the Gulf Coast, but these days, in the wake of a massive oil spill in the Gulf, he’s concerned about supply and, if there is fresh seafood, how much it will cost him to bring it back.

"Even after they clean it up, it’ll be years before we get good Gulf oyster," Le said Monday at his business, Atlanta Highway Seafood Market, off Atlanta Highway and Hazel Street. "And that is one of the main things we sell."

Shrimp is especially scarce these days.

"We’re still looking (for it) this week," he said. "And shrimp is one of our big sellers. Crab and crab meat — it doesn’t look like we’re going to get any more of that unless we get it out of the Carolinas."

Le’s woes — and those of scads of Gulf-dependent businesses, especially those in the tourism industry — started after an April 20 explosion of a BP PLC drilling rig that killed 11 workers.

The cause of the explosion hasn’t been determined.

A board investigating the explosion and oil leak plans to hold its first public hearing in roughly two weeks.

BP, meanwhile, has said through its website that it takes responsibility for cleaning up the spill and will pay compensation for "legitimate and objectively verifiable" claims for property damage, personal injury and commercial losses.

Le, who was born in Mississippi, started his business a couple of years ago, trying to fill a void in seafood markets in the area.

Soon after, the economy bottomed out, but Le managed to keep business humming.

He plans to look at different buying options, including the West Coast for oysters and the East Coast for fish and shrimp, to keep things going.

"It’s going to be hard to keep our prices very low ... if we have to go that route," Le said. "Those products are much higher and not as fresh. ... But that’s our only choice, it seems like now."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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