Keeping it fresh
Benny Hudson Seafood builds trust, and business, through five generations.
By Ellen Linnemann
From the minute a customer walks in the door of Benny Hudson Seafood Market, the experience is unlike buying seafood anywhere else. The main reason, of course, is the quality and freshness of its products. After all, Benny Hudson Seafood is one of the last of its kind to unload boats daily from its docks to provide the freshest, right off-the-dock seafood. But there’s something more that people get when they come to family-owned Benny Hudson’s – and it’s been driving customers to the popular seafood market for not only years, but decades.
That “something more” centers on the family behind Benny Hudson Seafood – which, for five generations, has been a leader in providing customers with the freshest local seafood on Hilton Head Island. And it’s the Hudson family’s longtime commitment to providing extraordinary customer service, and the trust that Benny Hudson Seafood has built both with fishermen and the community through the years, that truly set Benny Hudson Seafood apart in the local seafood arena.
“Most of the fishermen we work with have been with us for generations and have come to trust us and the Hudson name, based on such positive working relationships with us through so many years,” said Tonya Hudson, owner of Benny Hudson Seafood, noting that many of the fishermen she works with grew up knowing her father, Benny Hudson Jr. “In addition, our customers also have complete confidence that we consistently provide them with the highest quality of fresh seafood unloaded from boats right at our dock, and have grown to value our expertise in all aspects of seafood.” Once she talks to customers about the differences and benefits of Benny Hudson’s seafood, she finds she has “customers for life.”
Benny Hudson Seafood began as an oyster-shucking facility in 1890. Today Benny Hudson Seafood Market, located at 175 Squire Pope Road on Hilton Head Island, is a thriving retail market offering the highest quality of fresh local, domestic and imported seafood. Tonya Hudson and her mother, Barbara Hudson, took over the seafood market when Benny Hudson Jr. died in 1997. Tonya said it’s their commitment to providing attentive, personalized customer service to each and every person who comes to Benny Hudson Seafood Market that keeps the market thriving and customers flocking to the market year after year. Instilling that mission across the team is an integral part of the longtime success of the business.
“From product knowledge to customer service, we provide our entire team with the extensive training needed to best serve our customers, and I know that when I’m not here, we are all representing the Hudson family name in a way that makes our family proud,” notes Tonya. “Customers come to us for our knowledgeable, personalized service and our Lowcountry hospitality. Sometimes it’s just eye contact and a smile or a call to a longtime customer telling her that her favorite fish is here.”
This passion for providing quality seafood, and the Hudson family’s longtime expertise in the seafood arena, also have made Tonya a sought-after speaker at many local organizations and events where she provides insight into the importance of buying local and the negative impact and safety hazards of buying imported seafood. Hudson also speaks on the health benefits of being a “sulfite-free” facility. Benny Hudson Seafood Market doesn’t apply any chemicals to any of its seafood, further differentiating it from other seafood in the area.
Business at the market surged during the pandemic when more people were eating at home “and saw how really simple it is to prepare fresh seafood at home using our products and some great recipes we offer,” Tonya said.
To meet continuous growth, plans are underway to build a 2,300-square-foot Benny Hudson Seafood Market across the street from its current location. The new market will allow for more products out front and more room for additional employees in the back. Construction is expected to begin during first quarter of 2022, with the new market scheduled to open in early 2023. Hudson said after the new market is open, they plan to upgrade the dock so people can stroll down to enjoy the spectacular sunsets visible from the Hudson Seafood Market dock.
“For five generations our family has been committed to leading the way in providing the freshest seafood that people know they can trust when they buy from Benny Hudson Seafood,” said Tonya, who adds that her favorite part of her job is talking to her customers every day. “As we move forward with plans for our expanded new market, our goals are to honor our history and heritage in the seafood industry here on Hilton Head Island while leading the business toward continued and future growth.”
Three takeaways from Benny Hudson Seafood
1. Focus on team training and team building. “At Benny Hudson Seafood, we’re all about the team – whether it’s our employees or our vendors,” said Tonya. “Making sure that every team member is well trained to fully understand the company’s products, services and business philosophy not only builds strong teams, but helps to build business.”
2. Make customer service a priority. “Customer service is, and always has been, so important to the success of our business,” said Tonya. “Always go above and beyond when it comes to customer service because it truly will help you gain customers for life.”
3. The back of the house is just as important as the front of the house. “Since we’ve spent five generations developing relationships with our fishermen and vendors, we know we can count on them,” she said. “Business people just starting out sometimes focus on the fact that their customer is key, but forget that so are their vendors.”