Steve Kraus, co-owner of Gadaleto’s Seafood Market & Restaurant on Main Street, grew up in Freeport, NY — a waterfront community on the South Shore of Long Island known for its boating and fishing industry — but it took moving to New Paltz for him to get his first job in the fishing business. “It’s kind of weird,” he says. “I moved 100 miles from the ocean and then I started working with fish.”
Kraus was first hired at Gadaleto’s in 1996 to work the counter at the fish market, “just a basic college-level job,” he says, that he left behind after graduating from SUNY New Paltz. He did graduate studies at The New School For Social Research in New York City, but he got burned out on city life and came back to New Paltz. He made the move back and forth a few times before it stuck, and each time he landed in New Paltz again he went back to work at Gadaleto’s. “Once you’ve learned it here, it’s a good set of skills to have,” Kraus says today. “I’d say that 50 percent of the people that work here now have worked here in the past and come back.”
Just as he did. And when the manager of the fish market resigned back then, Kraus let Steve Gadaleto know he was interested in moving up in the company. Steve Gadaleto was the second generation of the family that started the business; his father, Nat Gadaleto, ran a grocery store in Highland in the 1940s before changing the focus of the business to fish, selling it out of the back of a station wagon at one point, says Kraus. In time the grocery store became a full-fledged fish market with additional locations in Poughkeepsie and New Paltz. The latter added the restaurant in the mid- ’90s and the location in New Paltz is now the only one.
Stacie Becker is third generation of the Gadaleto family and Kraus’s business partner. Becker runs the back of the house while Kraus does the seafood buying and wholesale sales. Running Gadaleto’s is almost like having three businesses, he says; the restaurant, the retail fish market and the wholesale business. “We do a lot of wholesale, from Beacon to Red Hook and Woodstock to Wallkill. We sell primarily to high-end restaurants and some institutions and grocery stores, like Adams in Poughkeepsie.”
Kraus goes down to the Fulton Fish Market at Hunts Point in the Bronx to purchase the seafood two to three times a week. Certain areas of the country, like Florida, only hit the market twice a week, he says, so there’s no need to go every day to get new product. On Sunday and Wednesday nights he wakes up at around 10:30 or 11 p.m., does his paperwork and gets his orders together and then drives down to the city after midnight. “The market opens at 1 a.m. so we get down there usually between 2 and 3, walk the market, do our purchasing, pick up our freight, and I’m usually back up here by 6 or 7 in the morning.” The rest of the week is spent “trying to recover back to a daytime schedule,” Kraus says, “where I’m in the office, calling all of our wholesale accounts and schmoozing, making sales, in addition to all the other small business stuff that can pop up like electrical problems, broken water lines… in small business ownership you do whatever you have to do.”
Keeping that kind of schedule “does get tiring,” says Kraus, “and sometimes it’s really hard to make the adjustments, but it’s what I do; it’s just my routine now. I haven’t missed a market in four years, and haven’t had a vacation either. Labor Day weekend and Memorial Day weekend? Those aren’t weekends, those are work.”
Recently New Paltz Times caught up with Steve Kraus to find out a little bit more about day-to-day life at Gadaleto’s.
What do you like most about your work?
I like being part of the Fulton Fish Market; it’s been an institution in New York since 1822. It’s an historic place even though it’s in a new location now in the Bronx. I like when I get out of the truck and I can see the skyline on the other side of the market, and just to be there; it’s a very unique environment. It has a lot of characteristics that make things interesting… there’s some grit to it; it feels very real. It’s all families who’ve been there selling for generations. So I like being the third-generation guys buying there, and I like when we’re able to get a piece of fish that someone is looking for that they can’t find anywhere else. I like being trusted; people trust me to make decisions to purchase something they need for their weddings, birthdays; big stuff.
What is the hardest thing about your work?
We employ anywhere from 20-25 people, so there’s a lot of interpersonal concerns. We have a good relationship with everyone, and because of that we sometimes have to deal with personal things that in a corporate job wouldn’t even come up. And it’s very challenging being a small mom-and-pop competing with national and in some cases, multi-national companies. We’ve got to find a way to differentiate ourselves from them and still offer a value to our customers. Staying ahead of any trends in the industry can be challenging, too.