8 Black-owned seafood markets to shop in North Carolina
Black culture has a widespread influence on North Carolina seafood cookery, from whole, bone-in fried spots and croakers to Gullah Geechee traditions that reach into the state’s far southeast coast. Many seafood markets across the state are also Black owned.
Some markets listed here were established to bring seafood to underserved areas. Others grew from generations in commercial fishing. A few combine seafood markets and kitchens. That means you can buy fish and shellfish to take home and cook or you can get fried and steamed seafood to eat right away.
This list is part of NC Catch’s “Recognizing African American Participation in the North Carolina Seafood Industry” project.
Forsyth Seafood Market & Café
108 N. Martin Luther King Jr Drive, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Virginia Hardesty and her late husband, Charlie Hardesty, grew up eating fresh seafood in Beaufort, N.C. After college, they built careers that had nothing to do with seafood. But Charlie would drive to the coast to pick up shrimp to sell from the back of a truck. Virginia helped and the Winston-Salem couple dreamed of owning their own seafood business. That happened when Forsyth Seafood Market opened in 1894. Now, their daughter, chef Ashley Hardesty Armstrong, runs the business with her mother. The duo works to source wild-caught seafood harvested by N.C. commercial fishers. Take something home or choose a fish for Ashley to prepare it in the Forsyth café, which specializes in fried seafood, crab cakes and seafood gumbo.
Virginia Hardesty and her daughter,
Ashley Hardesty Armstrong, at
Forsyth Seafood Market & Cafe
in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Southern Breeze Seafood Market & Food Truck
5138 Richlands Hwy, Jacksonville, N.C.
Co-owner John Mallette started working at a Sneads Ferry, N.C., fish house around age 10. He graduated to shrimping shortly after and ended up traveling the world as a charter boat captain. People warned Mallette that he would never be able to sell tuna or swordfish in rural areas that favored fried spots and croakers. Mallette changed minds with cooking demonstrations and tastings right at the Southern Breeze Seafood Market, all while continuing to offer local favorites.
Apex Seafood & Market
Raleigh-area farmers markets
Owner Tyrone Hightower grew up catching and eating freshwater fish around Norlina, N.C. After earning a N.C. State degree in animal science, Hightower worked for 23 years as a veterinary assistant/technician. Meantime, he kept hearing from people wanting a reliable source of fresh seafood without having to drive to the coast. So, Hightower switched gears and started Apex Seafood & Market. He sells seafood at Raleigh- and Apex-area farmers markets.
Tyrone Hightower of
Apex Seafood & Market
helps a customer at a
Raleigh-area farmers market.
6995 Beach Dr SW, Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.
A commercial fishing family runs this tiny seafood stand between Ocean Isle and Sunset Beach. That means the seafood is local and fresh. Shrimp, oysters, clams and blue crabs are specialties at Vaught's Seafood, but find whole fish in season here too. The Vaught family has been fishing and selling seafood for 95 years. Jack Vaught’s great grandfather and grandfather were both fishermen, and Vaught continues the tradition.
Livingston Creek Farmers Harvest
49 Harvest Circle, Freeman, N.C.
Spots, croakers, mullet, black sea bass, flounder, shrimp, even conch. Yolanda Graham, a former engineering manager, and Danny Graham, who served in the Marine Corps, source a wide variety of fresh seafood at Livingston Creek Farmers Harvest. The sprawling complex devoted to all things local and good to eat.
The seafood market at Livingston Creek in Freeman, N.C.
The Fish House Seafood Market
837 Perry Rd, Apex, N.C.
Growing up in Holly Springs, N.C., Christian Lanier wasn’t sure what career path he wanted to follow. After working one summer at a seafood market, he made up his mind. The Fish House opened in 2018. The chalkboard notes seafood sourced in North Carolina, and Lanier regularly updates the market’s Facebook page with the day’s offerings.
Bryant Seafood Market
3509 David Cox Road B, Charlotte, N.C.
L.J. Bryant’s wife and her friends loved to gather for seafood boils but had trouble finding the fish and shellfish they wanted. That gave Bryant the idea to provide seafood to an underserved area of Charlotte. Bryant, who came from the corporate world, includes sustainable N.C. seafood among the offerings at Bryant Seafood Market. The family business also serves fried seafood.
Buddy’s Seafood Market
115 Commons Drive, Suite C, Mooresville, N.C.
Seafood sourced in North Carolina is noted at family-run market Buddy's Seafood Market. The business started as Harris Brothers Seafood in 2021 at area farmers markets. As the customer base grew, the brothers opened a brick-and-mortar location and dedicated it to late family member Buddy, who was born prematurely but faced related challenges with a positivity that brought smiles to everyone he encountered. Buddy passed in 2022 at age 18.
This story is party of NC Catch’s “Recognizing African American Participation in the North Carolina Seafood Industry” project. North Carolina’s Black seafood business community has partnered with researchers in this historic project conceived by NC Catch to build understanding of the vital role African Americans and people of color play in the state’s seafood industry. Narratives, video and oral histories tell the stories of Black fishers, wholesalers, chefs and others working in seafood. A N.C. Sea Grant 2024 Community Collaborative Research Grant has helped fund the project.