By Leah Weissman
Pilot staff writer
Dick and Casey's Gourmet Seafood is still open, but its fate remains in jeopardy. The fresh fish market, which has been serving locals, fishermen and tourists since 1988, has until May 1 to turn around an impending eviction or else people are going to have to look for a new place to buy fresh fish and get their catch filleted, smoked and canned.
"I'm the last fresh fish place in the port there's not even a fresh fish market in Crescent City," owner Julie Tomlinson said. "And I am absolutely the only place left here where commercial fishermen can sell their fish off the boat and people can come here and have it filleted. Basically, this is going to have a trickle-down effect from the commercial fishermen to the general public."
In order to meet the May 1 deadline, Tomlinson said she needs to raise $8,000.
Realizing the important role Dick and Casey's plays in the Port of Brookings Harbor, community members and mariners have rallied behind Tomlinson with support, donations and fundraising ideas. A rummage sale and spaghetti dinner with a live auction have already been scheduled for April 19, with all proceeds going directly to keep the local fish market's doors open.
"There have been a lot of positive responses from people," Tomlinson said. "I've received a $500 donation from IPH, another from a local crabber, and several $100 donations from fishermen and the general public. I still need help, but it's looking like I might make the May 1 deadline to make my back lease current."
Brookings resident Rene Moulton, a customer and previous employee of Dick and Casey's, has been by Tomlinson's side every step of the way since she found out the business might close.
"I know Julie, and I know she has had an uphill battle since 2006," Moulton said. "I've been helping her because I know she's worth it, and the business is worth it to the port. When the fishermen of our area have no place to sell their catch when Pacific and Hallmark quit buying they run straight to Julie."
While loyal customers, fishermen even strangers clear out their garages to donate items for the rummage sale, Tomlinson said there have also been some unfortunate instances of people trying to undermine her efforts to keep Dick and Casey's open.
"There are some people out there who want my building, and are trying to sabotage the fundraisers with rumors and gossip about me," she said. "It's been very hurtful."
According to Tomlinson, some of the rumors being spread about her include that she has a drinking problem, and that she borrowed a large sum of money that she never paid back.
"Neither of those are true," she said. "But right now, at this point, I'm just trying to focus on saving my business."
With Dick and Casey's near future in the hands of the community, Tomlinson said that, if her business is saved, she is already exploring new profit-making avenues so she can continue to keep it open no matter what the salmon season brings.
"I'm diversifying, and talking to a lady from North Coast Small Business Development Center," she said. "And other people are trying to help me add onto my store, like maybe selling other products."
Tomlinson has apparently been hanging on by a thread since 2006, when the ocean salmon season was shortened to a few weeks and her business, along with others, suffered.
"I lost 35 percent of my annual income that year, and have been trying ever since to keep up," she said. "I've just been getting farther and farther behind."
According to Tomlinson, in response to the 2006 limited salmon season, Congress allocated millions of dollars to the state. The Oregon Salmon Commission then allocated the money to different businesses that depended on the salmon season for their livelihood.
"But I didn't get anything until the third week of January in 2008, and that wasn't enough for me," she said.
Moulton said the port will miss Tomlinson sorely if she leaves, especially sport fishing-boat captains who bring their tourists' catches directly to Tomlinson's door to be processed a nice feature if tourists wants to eat their hard-earned fish that night.
"Julie loves this port and knows it from one end to the other we really need her and her business," she said.