Tucked away off St Georges Road is one of Preston’s best kept secrets: Nationwide Seafoods.

Founded and established by John Karanikolaou in 1999, the family-run wholesale business has grown significantly and, in response to demand, the business has expanded to include a retail space.

“We had a lot of people walking in off the street looking for good quality seafood, and we were wholesalers so we couldn’t supply them. So it led us down the path of opening a retail so we can service people in the local area,” says Eric Karanikolaou, John’s youngest son.

Having worked from the ground up doing everything from opening oysters to cutting fish, and serving customers, after completing his double degree in Business and Marketing, Eric decided to step in and take the reins of the family business in favour of the corporate world, citing that fish, and fishing, is something that’s “in the family’s blood”.

His grandfather, a fisherman on the Greek island of Samos, ensured that his knowledge and passion were well and truly instilled in his son and grandchildren who spent their holidays growing up fishing.

Now 20 years on, Nationwide Seafoods is renowned for their quality product and freshness, supplying seafood to restaurants, cafes, universities, governmental institutions, catering companies and hospitals.

The fresh seafood they sell in store is locally sourced from suppliers across Australia and New Zealand and is flown in fresh throughout the week. They also stock quality imported frozen seafood to meet their customers’ varying needs and budgets.

“We do everything, seafood-wise. Our oysters we buy from Sydney; mussels come locally sourced from Port Arlington; and since they’ve closed fishing in the bay we’re outsourcing fishing through Portland, South Australia, Western Australia – all over the place,” he explains.

Conscious of their environmental impact, Eric says they aim to source as much sustainable fish as possible, and in doing so opt for seasonal species.

This approach, together with their greater buying power as wholesalers, allows the company to sell seafood through their retail store at wholesale prices without compromising on quality.

“I’ve seen my prices, compared to Prahran and Toorak [prices], I’m selling tuna for $29.50 and they’re selling it for almost $50 a kilo. We’re talking ridiculous price differences. That’s why we are growing and have such a great opportunity to continue doing so.”

Proud of their Greek roots and how far they have come, the Karanikolaou family also take a conscientious approach to hiring their staff, providing opportunities for workers from overseas, namely Greek migrants who have made the move Down Under in recent years due to the economic crisis.

“We’re always open to helping people. It’s a good stepping stone for them to get their feet on the ground and follow their interests. A lot of them are educated and they need some money to get on their feet and we’ve found that in the past we’re able to do that for them, which is good,” says Eric.

“We’re always willing to listen and give them a chance and help them establish themselves, which is important; our grandparents went through it, god knows how hard it is for them.”

It’s not hard to see how Nationwide Seafoods has built its positive reputation. Despite the company’s growth, aside from quality and price, it’s also their continued ‘old school’ approach to people and customer service that people appreciate. On a first name basis with most of their customers, you’re also likely to be greeted by one of the owners; John or his wife Foteini, or Eric himself.

“We pay more attention to detail with our customers [than other places], and all the customers are our friends. So we keep that relationship really strong and we’ve found that when competitors go in, 95 per cent of the time they can’t take [our customers’] business because we have such a great relationship and we service them really well.”

And if you’re anything like me, always on the lookout for tips and tricks for cooking, you’re in luck. As the seafood suppliers of a number of chefs across Melbourne, Eric says the family are always discovering new ways of cooking and serving seafood, and it is knowledge they are always more than happy to impart to their customers, often through instore cooking demonstrations.

Aside from their wholesale and retail offerings, Nationwide Seafoods also offers catering for private functions such as parties and weddings, and corporate events with platters that can be tailored to any budget and include Australian whole king prawns, freshly shucked Pacific oysters, fresh cooked Southern Rock lobster, Morton Bay and Balmain bugs, salmon caviar and roe, marinated octopus and mussels, and smoked salmon and trout, along with other top end products that are often hard to come by in your average seafood shop.

“We’re all about tailoring our product for the customer. We do cater for high end but we also have budget customers. We don’t just set a price and that’s all you can get because some people don’t like prawns or oysters, therefore you have to tailor it to a different direction, and include some dips and crackers. We do the whole works here.”

Look out for the impressive artwork at Nationwide Seafoods.

Nationwide Seafoods is located at 60A Oakover Road, Preston, VIC and offers delivery six days a week, Monday-Saturday. For more information, call (03) 9416 8177 or visit www.nationwideseafood.com.au. You can also ‘like’ Nationwide Seafoods on Facebook and follow them on Instagram @nationwideseafoods