Daniel Yousif weighs some fish while brother-in-law Justin Gian readies some more of the Fabian Seafood catch in 2011 . The Fabian truck is scheduled to be back in the area this Saturday, a sure sign of spring. Sun-Times Media file photo
Updated: May 6, 2013 6:10AM
ELGIN — It’s a sure sign of spring: Like the swallows coming back to Capistrano, the Fabian Seafood truck will be returning to set up shop, and the customers will be lining up for the first time this year on Saturday afternoon outside the Ziegler’s Ace Hardware, 1158 Lillian St., on Elgin’s west side.
Fabian Seafood is a 38-year-old family business based out of Galveston, Texas, that has several independent owners, each of whom covers a different part of the Midwest. The haul for sale typically includes fresh, wild-caught shrimp, blue crab meat and, season permitting, shucked oysters, crawfish tails, whole red snapper and flounder.
“This Saturday, we will have fresh wild-caught shrimp and shucked oysters,” Sarah Ascanio said. “Justin is having me remind everyone that these are some of the best oysters of the season.”
The suburban Chicago route belongs to Justin Gian, who hires a helper during the selling season to assist on the road. In these parts, in addition to Elgin, Gian has set up temporary fish markets in Woodstock, Lake Villa, Fox Lake, Naperville and at the Mount Prospect Farmers Market.
Gian and Ascanio, who is his sister, have been involved in the family business since they were teenagers. Ascanio takes care of email inquiries, postcard mailings and general customer service for her brother.
Last year, Ascanio told The Courier-News, “Fabian Seafood has been coming to the Chicago area for more than 30 years. Believe it or not, we still have customers who have been coming out for at least 20 years My grandparents were the ones who used to have Justin’s route and sell in Chicago before passing it down to him when they retired.”
“Justin used to be a hired helper on the road with my uncle’s truck,” Ascanio said. “Three years ago, Justin took over an entire route, which he now owns and operates. He travels to locations in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.”
The company’s selling season runs from April until November, and usually involves at visit every three weeks to a particular area. People can sign up to be on the mailing list either on-site or through the company website, www.fabianseafood.com.
“As soon as the schedule is made, postcards are printed with the sale dates and times, and mailed out to all of our customers,” Ascanio said. “This gives our customers several days in advance notice to plan for our arrival. I also send out email reminders to those who have provided us their email addresses. The notices will always indicate what types of seafood we are expected to be bringing that trip, and the postcards contain a 30-cents-per-pound discount.”
Ascanio said her brother purchases the seafood “directly from the boats at the docks near Galveston. The seafood is packed into coolers with ice and put on the refrigerated truck for transport up north. Justin then drives the load up, ready for the first selling day. Periodically throughout the trip, Justin has more fresh seafood flown up from Galveston to cover the whole selling trip. After the trip, Justin drives straight back home to Texas for a short rest and preparation for the next trip.”
According to Ascanio, the Fabian truck will come to Elgin about 10 times this year, but her brother still is working on the final schedule, planning around opening and closing dates of local outdoor markets.
“Last year, we came to Elgin 11 times, which is only one trip more than an average year,” Ascanio said.
This Friday, the Fabian truck will be in Woodstock from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Red Barn Farm Market along Route 47, one mile south of Route 14, then in Lake Villa from 3 to 6 p.m. at Railhouse Restaurant, 151 E. Grand St.
On Saturday, the truck will start off in Naperville from 9 a.m. to noon at Fifth Avenue Station Lot, 200 E. 5th Ave., and finish the day in Elgin at the Ace lot from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m.