The love of being on the water, and all that goes into creating a successful family-run seafood business, have brought sustenance to four generations of the Albert Granger family.
The fishing lifestyle began with Albert Sr.’s grandfather and father, who fished from a houseboat and then a camp at Lake Dauterive. At age 20, Albert Sr. started crawfishing in the Atchafalaya Basin, while working seven on/seven off in the oil field. In the 1980s, he began shrimping full time, and his wife Cheryl began managing sales from their home in Maurice, LA, a short distance from Lafayette. Fast forward 40 years, and their operation has grown and is still going strong.
In 2015, their son, Albert Jr., called T-Al, was laid off from an oil field job. Though he had many options for work, T-Al decided to join the family business, and take advantage of the lessons learned helping on his father’s boat since childhood. T-Al was committed to keeping his family’s livelihood going, and continuing the culture of Louisiana’s family-run fishing community.
When Albert Sr.’s wife, Cheryl, is asked about her role in the business, both men chime in before she can answer, saying “She is the business.” From the beginning, Cheryl has handled the critical aspects of sales and marketing. Starting with shrimp, Granger’s Seafood has expanded to include sales of a variety of fresh and frozen seafoods. And now, T-Al’s wife, Amber, also assists them, as well as caring for their young son, Bryce.
With a thriving and mature business, the family enjoys a rapport with many longtime customers. Customers from as far as Tennessee, Oklahoma, Missouri and beyond make annual pilgrimages to Maurice, and cars line up to purchase their premium white shrimp, among the world’s finest. TV cameras and media interest have come with their homegrown success, and the Grangers have hosted celebrities like Kimberly Schlapman of “Little Big Town,” who joined them for the filming of her cooking show.
The family is comfortable with the rhythms of the work. They shrimp from May to October, and crawfish from mid-November to Easter. For fresh shrimp, T-Al sells primarily from his boat in Delcambre, and Albert Sr. from the family home in Maurice. They sell fresh shrimp seasonally, and frozen packages year-round. Their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/GrangersSeafood/) has regular updates on what’s available and where. And, they participate in the Louisiana Direct Seafood program (https://louisianadirectseafood.com/author/big-al/ and https://louisianadirectseafood.com/author/t-al/).
Innovation is critical in a competitive field. A decade ago, Albert Sr. was among the first to install a refrigerated chilling system on his boat to maintain water storage at around 31 degrees, keeping his catch fresh but not frozen. As ice plants became scarcer and shrimp locations and weather often forced operations to new areas, on-board chilling has provided a self-contained system and greater flexibility of movement. Since then, many boats have adopted this system.
They’ve also quickly adjusted to the changing nature of the seafood buyer. In the older days, customers bought large quantities for freezing throughout the winter. Today’s customers eat out more often and purchase seafood more frequently and in smaller quantities. The Grangers have adapted by selling smaller amounts and offering frozen Granger’s Seafood packs year-round. They also sell fresh shrimp and crawfish for boiling to restaurants like The Cajun Table in Lafayette, and frozen packages in stores.
Running a successful seafood business isn’t for everyone. The Grangers understand Mother Nature’s inevitable ups and downs. During slower years and bad weather, they come together and live more cautiously, and adjust as needed.
For hurricane Barry in 2019, the men chose to ride out the storm on their boats-Albert Sr. with “Miss Brittany G.” at Intracoastal City and T-Al with “Capt. Bryce” in Delcambre. These brave acts ensured they wouldn’t have to face significant towing fees or damage if their boats were grounded after storm waters receded. It was a tough decision, as the storm was unpredictable and the inevitable flooding meant they could no longer escape by land should the situation get worse. Happily, all made it through just fine.
In the last three years, heavy rainfalls have increased the amount of fresh water in the areas where they shrimp, leading to disappointing takes that are considerably smaller than before. Albert Sr. is hopeful this winter won’t bring the heavy rains of the last three, and that their take next year will be back to normal.
Whatever may come, this tight group is committed to their lifestyle and will band together no matter what the future brings. Despite recent health issues, Cheryl is passionate about all they have created, and what’s to come. Even though he is slowing down some physically, Albert Sr. still loves what he does. And T-Al, Amber, and little Bryce all show enthusiasm for the life they’ve gladly taken on. All pledge to keep the business going as long as they can, and hope for good catches in 2020 and beyond. Whatever the outcome, the horizon is bright for this strong and resilient family.