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Hidden Gems: Meet Andrea McLaughlin of Robert’s Seafood Market

Today we’d like to introduce you to Andrea McLaughlin.

Hi Andrea, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Robert’s Seafood began in 1916 when Henry Robert, a watchmaker from Switzerland and employee of the Illinois Watch factory, bought the Morris Market in downtown Springfield.

It evolved over the years and became Robert’s Foods Inc a thriving foodservice distributor, which the family sold to Sysco in 2004, to focus on the roots of business-quality food and customer service in a retail setting. Today, Robert’s continues to grow in high-quality seafood, aged steaks, premium olive oils, balsamic, baked goods, wines, local meats, fresh produce, chocolates, and other items to complement the food experience for its valued clientele.

Our catering services are highly regarded also. The business now looks nothing like it used to. For one thing, we are proud to be female-majority-owned, our general manager is female, and we have a female cheese expert to assist our customers with designing and creating Instagramable, and delicious, charcuterie boards.

Robert’s Seafood Market is a Family-owned gourmet food market that consciously selects the finest, most sustainable local and global products. We believe the food experience should nourish the soul and the body.

We also offer catering and our exclusive olive oil and balsamic line.

Our vision is to be the best source for seafood, meat, and associated food products in Central Illinois. Our mission is to provide customers with an extraordinary, personalized shopping experience with supreme quality foods in an inviting environment. Our family and associates match our high-quality food offering.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Like so many small businesses throughout greater Springfield, Covid-19 changed and challenged the way we did business. We were forced to pivot, not our offering, but how we offered our products and services.

Combing the know-how of Andrea on our retail side and Gabi’s catering experience, we offered our customers online purchasing and curbside pick-up. With a loyal customer base of more than 7,000, we kept our key clientele updated with offers and opportunities through a weekly newsletter.

Of course, keeping our staff safe was a major concern, while also trying to anticipate increased demand from a customer base that expanded as people couldn’t go to restaurants, but still wanted a quality food experience.

It’s not a challenge to complain about, not at all, but in a new world maneuvering the ever-challenging supply chain issues.

While at the same time guaranteeing our customers the quality product and experience, they expect from us was something we had to navigate through existing and well-nurtured relationship, careful planning, improving our flexibility, communication skills, and investing in technology.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Robert’s Seafood Market?
What sets us apart is our ability to attract, retain, and nurture the talent of our associates. Namely, Gabi Thompson as our General Manager, to assist me in managing the retail business and leading our company into the catering business and beyond.

With that, Gabi has carefully selected and hired associates with unique talents and skills to help us remain relevant and prosperous. Courtney is our resident cheesemonger and, is a popular go-to for a charcuterie board, cheese board, or platter consults with customers entertaining family, friends, or work colleagues. We recently launched a series of charcuterie board-making evenings, led by Courtney, which have proved extremely popular.

We collaborated with another local business in town, Sangamon Reclaimed, a woodworking company (also female-owned and operated), which makes our charcuterie boards. We recently received the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce Small Business Awards Lifetime Achievement Award and I was honored to be among those named in this year’s class of the Springfield Business Journal’s Forty Under 40.

Honestly, one of our biggest accomplishments is surviving 106 years of change and the challenge of now being a fourth-generation family-owned and operated business. The fifth generation has now arrived, and it is our responsibility to ensure that Robert’s Seafood remains a successful business that can be passed on to my children.

We are a one-stop shop for local independent vendors across Central Illinois, in addition to our fresh seafood and meat offering.

We carry local products from Arrowroot Coffee to Cocoa Blue Chocolates and have a successful relationship with Three Twigs Bakery, where we sell in-store and offer pickup for holidays, as well as our oils and balsamic featuring at the Three Twigs Bakery, The Salted Lemon, and Biscuits & Brunch.

Alright so before we go can you talk to us a bit about how people can work with you, collaborate with you or support you?
We are extremely proud of our community, it has supported our family for more than a century, and for that reason, we continue to give back through sponsorships, fundraisers, donations, and gestures of goodwill.

In addition to our giving efforts, we have organized our first Summer Splash event for members of the public. A family day out with games, prizes, samples, food, treats, and drinks that everyone can enjoy, on Saturday, 23 July at Robert’s Seafood Market from 11 am to 3 pm.

You can find out more on our Facebook page.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Kate Spencer Photography

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