Hatteras Village, NC- In the early 1980s, commercial fisherman Steve Bailey said he saw the writing on the wall.
Not only did he think regulations would make it harder and harder to make a living solely off the water, but he was also watching North Carolina’s small Hatteras Village transform from a small fishing town to “a tourist destination with oceanfront million dollar condos.”
So in 1984 he went into a risky business – literally.
Dressed in rubber fishing overalls, boots and a wet cigar hanging out of his mouth, Bailey pointed to a pile of flounder he caught that morning.
“Fish. Selling fish. It’s a risky business,” Bailey said of his retail fish market, which set up on Oden’s Dock in the heart of Hatteras Village and named Risky Business.
Unless you vacuum pack and freeze your fish – which Bailey will do for the charter fishing boat customers when they come in from their day trips – you have to sell fish within 24 hours.
In reality, Bailey’s Risky Business has been what helped him survive. He still gets to work the water, which he still enjoys, and is able to diversify his business model.
“We do a good business here,” Bailey said. “But there were some hard days. I remember when I bought a pig and a keg of beer the first time we grossed $1,000 in one day.”
On average, Bailey sells between 500 and 700 pounds of fresh seafood per week.
While most of Bailey’s customers are summer visitors, a few are local, year-round customers.
As Kerry Barnett, the store’s manager said, “most of the people who live here locally year round are fishermen themselves.”
Bailey’s seafood offerings range from tuna and mahi caught off of the North Carolina coast in the Gulf Stream, to North Carolina shrimp and crabs, to the flounder he and Barnett catch in their small Carolina Skiffs and scale, brine, fillet and sell.
“It really is a cool feeling to tell the customers that we really did catch this fish for you this morning,” Barnett said. “People appreciate knowing how fresh it is and that it went from the sea to their dinner plate so quickly.”