Old San Francisco Fish Business Back in Business

A sixty-year old business will open once again.

The water inside the empty glass tanks churned -- waiting to host hundreds of Dungeness crabs. The old Fisherman’s Wharf warehouse looked as if it had just been subjected to the most thorough cleaning of its life.

The three sisters scurried about answering phones, checking orders and doing what they’d always done a week before the start of crab season.     
It was a scene, that almost wasn’t.  

When Angel Cincotta and her two sisters closed the doors of the Alioto-Lazio Fish Company last January, they didn’t know if they were coming back.

Among the docks out back of the fish business founded by their grandfather Tom Lazio in the 1940s, a crew from Exxon-Mobile was cleaning-up leaking fuel from some long-buried fuel tanks.

The pile-driving shook the building and Cincotta fretted over the pollution she and her family had been potentially exposed to. She worried about the safety of their seafood. Her mother cried the day they closed the doors – afterall, it marked the end of a more than sixty-year run.

"What do you do?" said Cincotta, reflecting back on the hiatus. "This is what you’ve done. This is what I’ve done for at least 30 years."

Over the summer, the contamination cleanup ended and the trucks cleared out. When the "all clear" sounded, the three sisters got the hankering to go back to work.  

"The light came at the end of the tunnel," said sister Annette Traverso. "Yes, we’re reopening. So let’s get going."

Along with sister, Mary Ann Shepherd, the trio has spent the last few months scouring the more than sixty-year-old business. Old rotting displays got tossed out. Walls got fresh paint. The sisters got re-energized.     

"The blood is moving again," said Traverso. "It’s just bubbling."

Since word of the reopening has spread, long-time customers have called, or come by. Some told Cincotta it was the happiest news they’d heard all year.

It is absolutely no coincidence the Alioto-Lazio Fish Company will reopen November 14th, the day before the start of the commercial Dungeness Crab season.  The season opener is akin to high holy days for seafood lovers – who split the calendar into crab season and that other part of the year.     
"There’s an excitement, a festivity in the air," said Cincotta. "You know all the good things are coming."

Early crab forecasts are predicting this season to be a good one – following a year most crab fishermen describe as the best they can remember. If the predictions play out, the tanks of the venerable fish processer will earn their keep.

It also will put an exclamation on the businesses return from the dreaded abyss where traditions go to die. When Tom Lazio died in 1998, the sisters and their mother promised to keep the business going.  But last January, when its future became as murky as the bay waters behind the building, Cincotta realized something had changed.

"When we were forced to close," she said. "It became not so much his dream anymore -- as much as our dream."

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