South Portland market fishes for neighborhood spirit

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Between the lunch and dinner rush last week, Bob Coppersmith kept piling haddock fillets on a digital scale.

His pleasant conversation with two customers was drowned out momentarily by a loudspeaker announcement that a dine-in customer’s order was ready.

It was difficult to tell whose smile was larger: Coppersmith’s or that of his customers, Marilyn Kane and Leo Poirier, who came from Portland to buy fish at South Portland’s newest fish market.

“This is the best,” said Kane, who admitted to following Coppersmith to his previous stores in Portland and Windham. “We drove across the bridge for this.”

Coppersmith and his wife, Paula, opened Docks Seafood in the former J.P. Thornton’s building at the corner of Broadway and Evans Street in early March.

But it wasn’t until April 1 that the couple’s full vision for the store became a reality, and they were able to sell fresh fish.

Last week, their cooler was full of raw fish that was bought from various sellers on the Portland and South Portland waterfronts. Selections included live lobsters, tuna, halibut, swordfish, salmon, crab meat-stuffed mushrooms, stuffed clams and calamari.

“Anything people ask for we can get within a day or two,” Paula Coppersmith said.

Bob Coppersmith said he wants to create a neighborhood fish market and restaurant whose spirit recalls the time when people could get what they needed within a short walk.

“Like those neighborhood stores you would walk to as a kid and talk with someone who owned the place,” he said. “We listen to everyone and try to accommodate everyone.”

While most of the cooked seafood served to take out or eat in at the 46-seat restaurant is deep fried, Paula Coppersmith said she is capable of accommodating special orders.

Someone could walk over to the fish case, she said, choose a fillet and have it baked instead of fried. The restaurant also serves salads and chowders.

The Coppersmiths, who live in Windham, said they invested approximately $50,000 in building renovations. Natural wood accents and gold-painted walls create a warm, down-home feeling.

The couple, who are in their mid-50s, said they are trying to grow the business in a slow and sustainable way. But word of mouth is getting around, they said, and they’ve been kept busy.

Coppersmith said he is already contemplating some changes, including increasing his live lobster storage capacity from 150 pounds to 3,000 pounds.

If he can do that, he said he would keep a circular, glass-walled storage tank in the restaurant and put in live sea creatures for kids to enjoy.

Although the restaurant is not licensed to serve beer or liquor, Coppersmith said he is also looking into state law to see what is required to make it a bring-your-own-beverage establishment.

“We’re trying to do a little bit of everything to reach everybody,” Paula Coppersmith said.

The restaurant opens at 6 a.m. Monday through Friday for coffee and muffins. The fish market opens at 9 a.m. and lunch is served starting at 11 a.m. It closes at 8 p.m.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings

Sidebar Elements

Paula and Bob Coppersmith show off fresh tuna at their new business, Dock’s Seafood fish market and restaurant, in South Portland’s Pleasantdale Neighborhood.