City says selling seafood on the roadside requires permit
The homemade signs advertising Alaska shrimp and Kodiak scallops are hard to miss. It's the way that Patrick Johnson, also known as The Shrimp guy, has been doing business for years.
Johnson, who owns an actual seafood store in Soldotna as well as a charter business there, said he regularly makes 27 stops around the state selling seafood from the back of his truck.
According to Johnson, 70 percent of his business are repeat customers, yet many admit they found it hard to stop the first time.
"I probably get a dozen people a day who say these same words," said Johnson. 'I've driven by you for 10 years and I've never stopped because I just don't know about a truck along side the road.'"
Johnson said the quality of his products speaks for itself but he also has the paperwork that shows he's licensed to do business in several cities, including Anchorage, prominently displayed on the window of his truck. He said he plays it by the book because he wants to stay in business.
Shelley Griffith is the Environmental Health Services program manager for the City of Anchorage. Griffith confirmed that Johnson has the proper paperwork from the City Health Department and added that other venders need it, too, if they want to sell food products within the Municipality.
She said another man who was selling King Crab from the back of his van that KTVA has been reporting on does not have the permit needed to sell his products in Anchorage. According to state records, the company he works for, Natural Express LLC, did renew state permits shortly after we reported on customer complaints that will allow the business to operate outside city limits.
Griffith said people selling food items from vehicles, including food trucks, need a mobile food permit that includes a review by the health department.
"It tells people when they are buying the food, that the people have had the training that they need, that their equipment is being maintained and it's not going to make them sick," said Griffith. "It should be visible. If it's not there, I would definitely ask, 'do you have a health permit?' And, if it's not there, I would walk away."
Back at his truck, Johnson said customers shouldn't hesitate to ask a few questions when buying seafood, in addition to noting whether permits are in place.
"You need to ask them where their stuff comes from? How fresh is it? When was it caught?" said Johnson.
There's always a little bit of "let the buyer beware" in every transaction, he said.
Knowing who you are doing business with can help alleviate some of those fears.