The Family Business: Mark and Sam Lewis

The son tried to stay away from 'the fish thing' for a while, but now he's the main man at Dry Dock Fish Co.

So he dove into the fish business, learning simply by doing. "We didn't have time to sit down and train this and train that," Sam says. "It was like, 'You figure it out. I gotta go do this.'"

"It was like, 'Now you know; now you fly,'" Mark adds.

While figuring out how to run a fish business—dealing with fishermen, buying equipment, managing employees—Sam says his father was like an "invisible hand."

"He had the strength to let me make my own mistakes," Sam says. "Never once did he say, 'Don't do this; don't do that.' He would just say, 'Okay, let's see how that works,' knowing that it's probably not going to work. And when I'd go, 'Man, that didn't work,' he would kind of sit there and smirk. That helped me learn better than if he just told me ahead of time."

Mark describes his philosophy: "If it's a big hole that you're gonna fall into and never come out, you have to step in. But with the little holes, you know they're gonna be okay. So you let 'em fall."

These days, Mark works with Dry Dock more as an adviser, concentrating more on its sister business, Lemon Lady, which makes and supplies preserved lemons and limes for seafood recipes.

Meanwhile, Sam does much of the roll-up-your-sleeves work of sourcing the fish, scrutinizing each one for its quality. "I take everything that leaves this shop very personally," he says. "That's somebody's dinner, and it's not a hamburger. They work hard for that 20 bucks a pound, so it's important the end user eat it and go, 'Mmmm.'"

Mark nods in approval. After a quarter century of building and growing the company from scratch, he's happy to hand it over to his son. It's Sam's fish thing now.

"I'm getting off the merry-go-round," he says with a smile, "and he's getting on."

This article appeared in print as "Something Fishy This Way Comes: Mark Lewis & son Sam."

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