Charlie Counts has decided to close Seafood Charlie’s, the Salem storefront that he opened less than two months ago, and focus on selling his fresh fish at farmers markets.
“It was kind of a bummer that it didn’t work out,” Counts said of the store on Fourth Street.
For two years, Counts has been driving to Surf City Crab seafood market on Topsail Island in North Carolina once a week and bringing back fresh seafood, which he sells at the Roanoke and Grandin farmers markets.
Earlier this year, the Roanoke College graduate decided to expand his business by opening a store.
A few weeks after opening, an inspector for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services paid a visit. Counts said he was told that he needed to comply with state regulations, such as installing two more sinks and labeling food. He emphasized to his Facebook fans that the agency did not find fault with how the business handled its food.
“We have always kept thermometers in our coolers and everyone agrees we keep our fresh seafood at a safe temperature, VDACS included,” Counts wrote on the business’ Facebook page.
VDACS spokeswoman Elaine Lidholm said the same regulations don’t apply to farmers market vendors because food sold at markets needs to be stored for only a short period of time before it is sold.
Counts decided that putting the time and money into complying with the regulations, in addition to the store’s overhead and manpower, was too much.
He has closed the store but said he will continue to sell at the farmers markets until the end of the season in late September or early October.
Counts’ seafood can be found at the Roanoke Farmers Market on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and on the Grandin Community Market on Saturday.
Also in the column, an automotive service center will open this week in the Roanoke County building that Audiotronics vacated in April.