Fishmonger hooks social media to help run business
It’s 3.45am and the alarm in John Kerr’s bedroom is buzzing.
It signals the start of the East Neuk Fish Merchant’s working day.
Bleary-eyed, the father-of-two from Kennoway rolls out of bed and gets ready to jump in his van and deliver fresh fish to Edinburgh, Fife and Midlothian.
Although the early starts can be tiring John says his work ethic and a desire to provide for his family as well as the communities he delivers to, gives him the drive to get on the road.
“I don’t like letting customers down,” John says. “So although I do all the usuals such as salmon, lemon sole, hake, sea bass, fish cakes, hot smoked salmon, cod, mackerel and kippers, people can put in orders for something more special. I’ll do everything I can to get it for them.
“I ask for a week’s notice if they’re wanting something different such as razor clams and lobsters. It can be tricky and stressful but I hate saying no.”
Before buying the van, John worked for his mum and dad in Glenrothes at their gift shop Harvey Willis as well as with his uncle and at engineering firm FCE.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do but this opportunity came up and a few family members twisted my arm. I also needed a job that would support my wedding at the time.”
And in May 2016 the risk paid off as he and wife Jennifer tied the knot.
Now, buzzing around the Lothians and Edinburgh, John is in a routine and doesn’t stop, determined to get home and spend quality time with his young family. “I have a two-year-old and a six-month old,” he explains. “Wallace and little Arwen and I keep a tight schedule so I can get home and see them.”
After a quick bowl of porridge, he sets out on the road at 4.15am and starts the early deliveries from 5am-8am.
In the world of a modern fish man, John uses messaging service Whatsapp to allow customers to pre-order a shopping list as well as Facebook.
“Normally I send out about 400 messages to people – text messages and to the WhatsApp group of customers,” John explains. “Like a barman I do last orders – a final call for people who want the early morning drop-offs.
“From 5am until 8am I am just that thing that goes bump in the night,” John laughs. “At doors, garages, I’ve got a key to put fish in fridges and leave packages at back doors.”
He then zooms through streets across the city where fish fans pop in to choose. On Tuesdays it is Eskbank, Gorebridge and Bonnyrigg, and on Wednesdays he travels across Edinburgh. After dishing out the fish, which is supplied from G & J Wilson Ltd in St Monans, John gets back on the road at 2pm. “I don’t have a lunch break and I don’t stop for coffee,” he explains. “It’s the fear of letting customers down.
“A lot of people think I’m going home at that time but first I have to go to the shed in St Monans to place the early orders for the next day.
“All my customers send out their orders for the next day and they trickle in throughout the day. I send reminder messages and then shut off the orders at 3pm for the next day.”
John then scrubs down the van making it “brand new”.
And how does he relax? “I gorge myself on food,” he joked. “But seriously, there isn’t much time to relax with two young kids and an early start.”