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Bringing the bounty of the sea to the Island: Two markets/restaurants are set for summer

Two Island businesses, one celebrating a year on the Island this weekend, the other a beloved institution for decades, have survived the pandemic and are hoping to flourish this summer.

Commander Cody’s, the venerable presence on Smith Street, and newcomer Shelter Island Seafood, are similar in another way — both are seafood markets and restaurants.

Set to celebrate an anniversary

The newest entry in the Island seafood scene is on North Ferry Road. Kathy and Ted Bucci opened their market and restaurant last Independence Day on the site of the old Bob’s Seafood Market, which has been refurbished and spruced up.

Mr. Bucci said that some time ago he and Ms. Bucci started a second career with Harbor Lights Oyster Company as an oyster cultivator and a licensed fish processor selling to wholesalers and restaurants. When the pandemic hit it soon became apparent that with most restaurants shuttered, the business was in trouble.

Undaunted, they leased the property from the Reiter family on North Ferry Road and began retailing seafood, getting the fish from the large markets in New York City, but then went totally local after several spending long days of commuting back and forth to the city. Now they buy from Montauk and North Fork wholesalers, but also purchase fish from local baymen.

 “We want to do more of this,” Ms. Bucci said, encouraging baymen to stop by the market.

Working through the last 12 months has been challenging, to say the least, Ms. Bucci said. The market stayed open seven days a week and the restaurant served four days a week. Finding employees was difficult and remains a challenge, the couple said.

Customers are impressed, Mr. Bucci said, because the market “sells the freshest fish you can get, we’re turning over fish every day.”

Takeout saved the day for the Bucci’s during the lockdown, and they still have a full-service pick-up option for customers. Those stopping by are offered local wine and beer and can eat either outside or in the newly air-conditioned dining room.

They’re still looking for help — “Our staff has been fantastic” — which has been one of the latest challenges.

“This community has been wonderful to us,” Ms. Bucci said. “They’ve really responded to us.” She especially thanked the weekenders who stop by on their way back to the city to take home fresh fish packed on ice.

An Island institution

Commander Cody’s Seafood overcame some extremely difficult circumstances, like all Island businesses, by staying with what they do best, said Amanda Hayward, co-owner and chef at the Smith Street seafood market and eatery. The establishment provides fresh fish in the market and superb cooking, not just of fish but of Southern dishes such as fried chicken and barbecue.

Ms. Hayward and her staff — no one was let go during the most difficult months — kept a take-out business thriving, putting service to their customers above everything else.

Her spirit comes from her father, Jim Hayward, who opened Commander Cody’s more than three decades ago. He said in a Reporter interview that, “I said to my daughters, you see a bear and me in a fight, stop and help the bear, because I’m going to make it.”

Ms. Hayward said the market didn’t have any trouble sourcing the food they prepared and sold, with an exception here or there “when a purveyor might be out of something. But we usually didn’t have an issue.”

Now, however, with most restaurants back or close to full operation, “some things are harder to come by,” she added. “Like chicken, pork and, unbelievably, French fries.

With customers coming back as the pandemic recedes, Ms. Hayward is having trouble finding additional staff. “Nobody wants to work,” she said.

With the summer season in full swing, Ms. Hayward is bringing new dishes to her customer’s tables — at the restaurant or for takeout — including, “Our crab boil! Snow crab, corn, potatoes, and shrimp in Cajun broth.”

Looking back at how the community has supported the business through the years, and especially during the health crisis, Ms. Hayward said, “this Island has been great. I couldn’t ask for a better community.”

Shelter Island Seafood: 87 North Ferry Road, 631 765-8181, shelterislandseafood.com

Commander Cody’s Seafood: 41 Smith Street, (631) 749-1851, facebook.com/ShelterIslandFishMarket/