Ever wondered where all that wonderful sushi served in Denver comes from? Probably Seattle Fish Company; now the largest distributor of fish in the Western U.S. President and CEO of SFC, James Iacino, learned every aspect of running a seafood operation starting at age 12 when he first went to work for his father, Edward, who is now the Chairman of the Board.
With its rich and respected almost 100 year history, Seattle Fish Company was started in 1918, by James' grandfather, Mose Iacino.... along with Mose’s pledge to supply the Rocky Mountain area with the world’s best quality seafood. His son Edward, and now James, have carried on with the tradition of running a business which continues to hold itself to the highest standards. James says: “Even though we have grown rapidly, we will always remain a family-oriented company at heart.” James is committed to staying true to their reputation for sterling customer service and maintaining a culture of “responsible sourcing and providing sustainable seafood from catch to cook.”
The third generation, Iacino, a leader in today’s seafood industry, and a graduate of the National Fisheries Institute Future Leaders Program, serves on the "Cooking Matters Colorado" board of advisors and is chairing the "Chefs Up Front" event which raises funds to end childhood hunger in Colorado.
Maybe the most important event in the life of James, and his lovely wife Meghan, is the recent birth of their beautiful baby boy, Edwin James, who is bringing them much joy. Even as busy new parents, they are taking the time to chair an event this month that is near and dear to them. On January 28th, James and Meghan are the event chairs for the "Nathan Yip Foundation’s Chinese New Year Celebration." It’s the Year of the Rooster, and Colorado’s biggest Chinese New Year’s event at the newly renovated McNichol’s Civic Center Building in downtown Denver.
James Iacino was a friend of young Nathan Yip, who was tragically killed in a car accident when he was only 19. Along with Nathan’s parents, Linda and Jimmy Yip, James and Meghan are doing everything they can to keep Nathan’s memory alive and do whatever they can to help the "Nathan Yip Foundation" improve the quality of life and the educational opportunities for many needy children in Colorado and abroad.
I love what Jessi Heier, the executive assistant for Seattle Fish Company, had to say about working with the Iacino’s; it sums up well how the family and the company have affected so many lives in a positive way: "I take great pride in working for James and Seattle Fish. It’s core values of quality, sustainability and feeding our own communities allows me to be part of something bigger. I am grateful for the opportunity and truly feel a part of the Seattle Fish family."
James, we understand you were good friends with Nathan Yip. What stands out the most about your friendship with him? Nathan was incredibly intelligent and always had a good energy about him. I was new to Kent Denver my freshman year, and Nathan was one of the first students to befriend me. He had a passion for education that resonates in the work the foundation is doing on his behalf today.
The Yip's are remarkably courageous. Have you kept in touch with Linda and Jimmy ever since Nathan’s death? I have kept in touch with the Yips primarily through the organization of the "Friends of Nathan Yip" and "Nate’s Night" events. Linda and Jimmy are a remarkable example of community leaders dedicated to the continuous improvement of our educational system and to a legacy of all children having access to quality education, both in China and here in Colorado.
Tell us about the Nathan Yip Foundation’s “Chinese New Year Celebration on Saturday, January 28th, and how you got involved as chairs? The Chinese New Year Celebration is an opportunity to celebrate not only the New Year, but the incredible work of the foundation and all of its supporters over the past 15 years. The celebration will be unlike the galas of the past, with a street party feel, acrobats, lively dragons, magicians, and an incredible array of food from many of Denver’s top restaurants and chefs. This is an opportunity to thank our supporters, celebrate our successes, and energize the community around our continued growth. Meghan and I were asked to chair the event by Linda and Jimmy shortly after last year’s gala and Nate’s Night events. Although we knew we were expecting our first child, Edwin James, around the New Year, we felt it was a great opportunity to help shape a new vision for this great annual event and to recruit many of our young professional friends to get involved with this great foundation.
Did you always know you would continue the Iacino family tradition and be part of the family business? I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work at Seattle Fish Company throughout my teen years and to gain such valuable experience in learning first hand how the company operates. In college I found a love for politics and briefly considered not working for the company, but through engagement with my father and additional work opportunities at the company I found my passion for sales and growing our presence in the Colorado community. The rest is history.
What’s new on the horizon for Seattle Fish Company? We have experienced outstanding growth over the past 5 years and we plan to continue to grow, both organically within the markets we currently serve (Salt Lake City to St. Louis, Montana to New Mexico) and through continued regional expansion. We have added an incredible line of Gourmet Provisions to our product offerings to help give chefs access to locally sourced, high quality foods not carried through traditional distributors. Of course, our overall purpose is to sustainably feed people, and we will continue to educate our communities about the incredible health and environmental benefits of a diet rich in seafood.
What is a favorite childhood memory for both of you? Meghan and I have both been able to participate in family traditions of spending summers in Wisconsin (Meghan) and northern Michigan (James). For both of us these summer trips have provided some of our best childhood memories, including spending time with family and friends, swimming and boating in the lakes, and of course ice cream and custard, depending on which side of Lake Michigan we were on.
Now that you have a new beautiful member of your family, little Edwin James (which will be your priority), what’s the best way to find some “new parent” balance in your lives? Meghan and I have always been good about maintaining balance in our lives, particularly through our love of travel and a healthy lifestyle incorporating consistent exercise and daily meditation. I am fortunate to have a very strong senior leadership team at Seattle Fish Company to allow us the opportunity to maintain a balanced lifestyle and for us both to actively work with a number of non-profit organizations throughout Colorado to do what we love most, give back to the communities that have given our family so much over the past 99 years.
Do you hope Edwin James will continue with the family tradition of joining Seattle Fish Company some day? I hope that Edwin James will find his own passion and pursue it, no matter what that passion may be. This company will always be a part of our family and if he would like the opportunity to lead it someday, then he will have my support. In the meantime, I hope he experiences all the gifts life has to offer and finds joy every day.
What’s your favorite motto or words of wisdom to live by? “This too shall pass” is a personal favorite of mine. It both reminds us to be present in the moment as time continues to pass us by all too quickly, and that no matter what challenge we may currently be facing, it is always temporary.
Is there something new both of you would like to learn? Meghan would love learn how to play the piano, and we both would like to learn additional languages. We continue to challenge ourselves to learn new skills and take up new hobbies when we can.
Where do you see yourselves 20 years from now? 20 years from now we hope to be enjoying family and friends both in our beautiful Crestmoor neighborhood and during summers at our cottage in Bay View, Michigan. In the meantime we will continue to travel the world, encouraging people to eat more seafood, while serving our community and finding gratitude daily.
What legacy do you want to leave behind? A beautiful family driven by the desire to continuously improve our Colorado community and a multi-generational family company that exists to improve the health of people in the communities it serves and to make a sustainable positive impact on our planet.