Updated: Feb 18
Robert Amar’s idea started small – to provide some neighbors and friends in need with seafood. A restaurant fresh fish wholesaler, Amar saw how COVID-19 shut down restaurants in Philadelphia and he just happened to have some mussels and scallops and salmon handy, so he sent out an email to his block on Woodstock Street asking if anyone was interested in fresh and tasty seafood that, in normal times, would have been destined for a fine restaurant experience in the City.
Robert Amar (L) and Andy Farrell (R) have partnered to deliver seafood to Fairmount, Rittenhouse Square/Fitler Square and Washington Square each week.
These weren’t, and aren’t, normal times. And Amar’s idea that started small? Well, it’s grown into a weekly event in Fairmount – something that has provided the freshest seafood at great prices to his mailing list of more than 2,600 Fairmount names and a time of gathering and good will in the community. You may have seen the truck every Thursday at three Fairmount locations on Woodstock Street, The Philadelphian and 19th and Wallace Streets – Small World Seafood (smallworldseafood.com) and the long line of people gladly waiting for their fresh catch of the day in this direct-to-consumer production.
“If you ever want to do something that will make you feel good and almost make you want to cry, the first few weeks we would pull the truck to The Philadelphian and there would be a line of people there, clapping as we pulled up. They were cheering. They were so happy,” said Amar, who is partnered up with his neighbor, Andy Farrell, to deliver seafood to Fairmount, Rittenhouse Square/Fitler Square and Washington Square each week. “It’s become a community thing and it’s really been amazing.
“After about a month and a half at The Philadelphian, we were getting some long lines and I thought, ‘Who is going to want to wait in line for two pounds of salmon?’ So, we got there the next week and tried to speed things up to shorten the line and people came up to us and said, ‘Hey, where’s the line?’ I said, ‘We got rid of the line. We’re making this faster.’ They said, ‘No, this is my time to socialize. I had a chance to meet my neighbors.’ I was like, ‘You WANT a line?’ So, it’s been really rewarding that way. I live here. This is part of me. It has become part of the community.”
Amar sends out an update email each Monday to his mailing list and provides an intimate account of what to expect from that week’s menu and he shares recipes and ideas and feedback from his audience. It’s a fun read, even beyond the essential here’s-what-is-ahead-this-week information. On Wednesday, an order form is emailed and then on Thursday morning the Small World Seafood truck is out in Fairmount, making its stops and delivering several hundred orders.
“Does it help to know and trust your fish guy? Absolutely,” Amar said. “Your fish guy is one of those guys you want to find and you want to trust. Relationships are important in every part of this. For me, I’m looking for that trust from my supplier, too. Week after week I look to see what we can do in terms of bringing the best and freshest fish to my neighbors. I think it’s going to be a little while before restaurants get back on their feet. And I think people have learned how to cook. We’ve seen it from what our customers are telling us. They’re sharing recipes and ideas on our website and with each other. We’re all eating the same food each weekend and we have that ‘shared’ feeling. It’s so neat. It has been so rewarding to get out in the community and help people and see how much we’ve enjoyed being part of this together. That’s been the key – everyone is sharing this experience.”
“I feels good, I gotta tell you. It feels good giving back to the community.”