Fish Fridays at Acme: Where's There's Smoke, There's Lox

As someone who grew up combing through racks of split-tagged clothing at Marshall’s, I was trained at a young age to love a bargain. Outlet malls, closeout sales, BOGO deals — their mere mention makes my wallet itch. But none of that holds a candle to that magic word which wholly transcends the concept of a great deal: WHOLESALE.

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Wholesale implies an entirely different level of short-cutting the markups and margins of retail. Wholesale takes you direct to the authentic source of product you seek out — no add-ons, no bells and whistles, no marketing gloss. Wholesale eliminates those dreaded “middlemen” who line their wallets with our hard-earned cash. (Is there anyone more vilified in this age of disruption than the rapacious middleman?)

When I first heard about Acme’s Fish Fridays — wholesale smoked fish? really? that exists? — my salivary glands immediately surged into Pavlov Alert Defcon 1 levels. Acme, a fourth-generation, family-owned New York company, processes a mere 24,000 pounds of fish — per day. They smoke more fish than any other U.S. brand, cranking out almost 10 million pounds of salmon, whitefish, herring, and other appetizing delicacies at their facilities in Williamsburg and around the country.

Price-wise, you’ll see your dollar go about twice as far here as it would buying Acme products at retail (they also offer their Blue Hill Bay and Ruby Bay packaged brands). But the bargains are only a small part of the satisfaction of trekking out to 30 Gem Street in Brooklyn’s northern reaches. As you approach the facility, the wood smoke in the air is palpable. The unctuous, oily smell of fish envelopes you as you enter through the unmarked door. The queue winds around inside the warehouse, a satisfying refrigerated chill pervades the rooms.

I popped over to Acme early today with a friend, and while in line, we wondered why they open their doors one morning a week to regular folk. What’s in it for them, given their massive b2b operation? An Acme spokesperson said in an interview that they’ve done this for years (long before Williamsburg became the epicenter of hipster-dom) as a service to the community where they operate. More than that, I think the folks at Acme love their product, and relish their interactions with regular folk every Friday morning. It’s a point of pride.

The staff is eager to explain the difference between hot- and cold-smoked fish or the specifics of how their gravlax is cured. When I got the front of the line, the amiable woman behind the counter plied me with samples, and then she waved me over to the end of the display. “This is the belly salmon. $4 a pound, and it’s my favorite. You gotta try some of this,” she offered eagerly. Twenty dollars later (cash only, btw), I walked back out into the crisp autumn sunlight with enough smoked fish to last me well through the weekend.