Simply Fresh has been providing Triangle chefs and restaurants with fresh fish and seafood since 2006 and has helped Firsthand Foods with delivery services since the early days of our business. It’s a “win-win” partnership that’s successful in large part because of the good character and integrity of its founder, Trey Bohn. Trey is a New Jersey native who was first introduced to the food industry as a teenager working in his High School’s cafeteria. During college, Trey studied history and worked at an Italian restaurant for four years. From there he made his way to New York to work in a high-end specialty delicatessen and grocery. When Trey got the opportunity to become a food service director with a national food service company, Saga Foods, he jumped at the chance. He remembers, “This was during the 1970s when the economy was faltering and jobs were difficult to come by.”
Trey moved with Saga Foods from New York to Maryland, spent a short while in Virginia, and ultimately landed in Durham, North Carolina where he worked as a food service manager at the now defunct tobacco company, Ligget Myers. He then spent five years working for the distribution company Southern Foods (sold to Pate Dawsen and now operated as a subsidiary of Cheney Brothers) followed by eight years at Buckhead Beef (now owned by Sysco). It was here that Trey began to cultivate his appreciation for seafood. “I just love how seafood is always changing seasonally and regionally. I never know from one day to the next what will be available… so it keeps me on my toes.”
In 2004, when his father became ill, Trey went back to Virginia to take care of his parents and worked part-time for a local seafood distributor. That’s where he learned the logistics end of the seafood business. When he moved back to North Carolina, Trey decided to open his own shop. “My father was an entrepreneur and I think it rubbed off on me. After he died, I realized that I needed to work for myself, to be my own boss. I learned a lot about managing people working in a corporate setting but I was ready to step out and make stuff happen on my own.”
For the first year, Trey operated solely out of truck (a gold Chevy S10, to be exact), driving to the coast four to five times a week, picking up fresh product, packing it on ice, and driving back to the Triangle to sell it straight off his truck the same day. Once he developed relationships with different fish houses and vendors, he realized it would be a lot easier to have product delivered to him. That’s when he moved to his current warehouse in east Durham and expanded his sourcing to include brokers operating out of Florida and Boston.
Today, Trey has five employees, including two cutters and three drivers, and approximately 75 restaurant customers in the greater Triangle region. Trey and his team run a tight ship behind the scenes in the dark of early morning. A typical day starts no later than 5:00AM and ends by noon. They are old school, doing business without a website or social media presence, making it all work with minimal infrastructure – just sharp knives, clean trucks, plenty of wax-coated cardboard boxes, ice, and cell phones. “Our customers are busy and work late hours so I meet them where they’re at. If they need to put in an order at 11PM for the next morning, we make it happen.”
At 68 years old, Trey is ready to let go of the early morning hours and devote more of his energy to sales and vendor relationships. To make this happen, he’ll be handing over daily operations to Jimmy Vasallo, a trusted employee whose been with Simply Fresh for five years and knows the business inside and out. “I’m looking forward to spending time with my wife, getting down to the coast more often, and using my time wisely – on aspects of the job that energize me to keep going!”