features

Marc Agger: something fishy in Brooklyn

Marc Agger ’86MBA moves 10 million pounds of fish per year.

Robert Clark

Robert Clark

One day in 1986, Marc Agger ’86MBA drove to Cape Cod, bought some fish, packed them in his car, and sold them for a profit in New York. Now his company moves more than 10 million pounds of fish every year. View full image

It was 1986. Marc Agger had just earned an MBA from the Yale School of Management, and was doing freelance jobs in New York City, when opportunity knocked. Actually, it splashed, or flopped around, or made whatever noise one associates with fish.

Agger, who is now the owner of Agger Fish Corp. in Brooklyn, was at a seafood restaurant. The friend dining with him, who had grown up on the Massachusetts coast and knew from good seafood, was not impressed by the dish. He said, “Marc, you go to Cape Cod in the summer—can’t you do better than this?”

Agger thought maybe he could. The next weekend, he drove his car up to the Cape, bought some fish and oysters fresh off a boat, packed them in ice, and brought them back to New York City. These he sold to several chefs interested in buying the freshest ingredients possible. He made a tidy profit. “Talking with the chefs, they said, ‘This is great—what else can you get me?’” Agger recalls. “I said, ‘What do you want?’”

In those days, he says, it might take a week for a fish to go from hook to plate; in between were a variety of middlemen. Seafood in the Big Apple was often less than fresh. So Agger began driving back and forth to the Massachusetts coast to buy fish. Within a month he was riding on fishing vessels, talking to fishermen about going after unusual catches—sea urchin, scallop with roe attached, sand shark. And especially monkfish liver. “Arguably ugly, but the meat is amazing. It tastes like lobster,” he says. 

Soon he owned his own boat, a 25-foot oyster skiff on Cape Cod, and he began going out with an old salt or two to learn how oysters and scallops were caught. Five years later, he bought a few monkfish boats. “It just all happened very fast,” Agger recalls. “There was no business plan, no dreams of entrepreneurial glory in my youth. It was an empty field back there.”

At the peak of the business, in the late nineties and early aughts, Agger could sometimes spend $6,000 on a shipment of seafood, fly it to Japan, and make $75,000. “One day’s work,” he says. “This is the fish business. It’s so Herman Melville, so Moby Dick.” 

Agger Fish, in Brooklyn, has a dozen employees and moves more than 10 million pounds of fish per year, mostly monkfish. Agger is an avid squash player, a supporter of start-ups, and an environmentalist concerned about the oceans. He’s also working on a beer-aging project with the Brooklyn Brewery. But he mainly deals in fish. He’s expanding into other fish-related areas and hopes to double his sales next year.

Agger counts Yale’s education as a major factor in his success. “It changed the whole way I think about finance and production and marketing,” he says. “And humanity. It was amazing in every way.”

Post a comment