For 141 days the brotherly tandem that runs R&D Seafood Inc. have been spending some quality time in a trailer outside of the store, waiting patiently as their family owned business underwent major reconstruction after a fire on Oct. 11.
“A little too much time,” Ron Charest admitted about his long days during the winter months stuck in a trailer with his brother Marc Charest. “I think he spent more time with me than he wanted to.”
But now, that time has finally ended. The seafood market that locals have turned to since 1968 has recovered from its longest recess.
During the lapse Ron has been overcome with the support he and his brother have received from his customers and local businesses in the area, and said that he’d rather be with his customers than stuck in a trailer.
At opening Tuesday, regular customers were waiting to greet the “new” R&D and to say hello to their old friends. Some brought brownies, some pastries, and others sent flowers congratulating the business on their reopening.
“We get to see our customers again. That’s what we really, really miss because that’s probably 80 percent of our business,” Rob said. “We just love our customers.”
Ever since the fire, those same customers have been lending a helping hand. Even local businesses offered support.
“Everybody was so nice to us. Everybody offered us everything,” Ron said. “We had other restaurants offering their refrigeration, but it wasn’t worth the aggravation of putting something that was smoky into someone else’s refrigeration so we ended up tossing everything that was in here.”
When all was said and done, the seafood market was empty. It’s office, it’s lobster tank, it’s refrigeration and all the seafood R&D was known for were gone. The only thing left standing was the stone walls and a smoke-destroyed roof.
A new roof was installed along with plenty of new workspace, office, refrigeration and freezer units, and new counter space.
Salaries were met as were business continuation during the holiday season, where R&D makes enough to support the business until spring comes around. This was only possible with the help of insurance, which Marc had been steadfast in buying regardless of whether times were good or bad.
“That’s one thing my brother always maintained, was the payments on the insurance. Even when things get tough you’re better off taking a small pay cut,” Ron admitted.
With the insurance, both brothers were able to rebuild the business their parents Ray and Doris Charest built.
“We wouldn’t be able to replace all this without insurance,” Ron said. “Because this is an old building, all our wiring had to be redone, you have to have a fire alarm system put in. Just the fire alarm system alone would devastate anybody that doesn’t have the insurance.”
On the side, the brothers worked day-to-day, sending out whole sale calls to their regular restaurants and schools. Seafood was bought and sometimes cut by other local seafood markets like in Woonsocket and All-American in North Kingston.
“All of these companies worked very well with us because they knew what we were going through. Anything we needed, they were there. They would have our fish cut for us because we didn’t have any processing facilities. Everybody was really, really nice to us,” Ron said.
Now the boys have reopened, set up their decorations and pictures on the wall. The market has an aura of newness about it, but the look of old. Marc makes a joke at the counter about a particular product not being there because of a “fire sale.” While a unique pun, the truth is the brothers have been readjusting to having their business back, and in the process, leaving some items off their radar.
“We’re still realizing how much stuff we forgot to order. You go to grab something and it’s not there because you forgot to order it,” Ron said. “We just want to get acclimated. There are a lot of things we have to get reorganized with. When everything is running, you take it for granted.”