Mercer Island Living | March 2021
Getting to Know Premier Catch Founders, Joci and Ashley Besecker
By Barbara Gart
Joci and Ashley are not just close friends and sisters-in-law. They are Mercer Island residents and Co-Owners of one of the Island’s fastest growing businesses, Premier Catch. Both women have deep family ties to the fishing industry and are passionate about their new business venture.
Joci spent a lot of time on the Oregon and Washington coasts growing up, enjoying salmon fishing, crabbing and digging clams with her family and cousins. Joci and her husband Jeff recently celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary, after having met at the University of Washington their sophomore year in college. They have lived in Mercer Island since 2005 and have two children, Jack and Jane. Joci said, “We love the Mercer Island community and the small-town feel. Raising our kids here has been amazing, and I love that they can ride their bikes to the park or into town and feel safe. It’s wonderful to have access to bigger cities like Seattle and Bellevue close by, as well as all the water and beach access.” Prior to starting Premier Catch, Jodi worked as an Interior Designer and has used her extensive design background in her new role to design Premier Catch’s logo, labels and website.
Ashley’s great-grandfather immigrated from Nova Scotia and fished halibut on the F/V Grant in Alaska over 100 years ago. She grew up appreciating great seafood and as fate had it, she married into a fishing industry family when she married her husband Tyler almost 10 years ago. They have two children, Grace and Gianna. Ashley said, “Tyler has been connected to Mercer Island for a very long time, as he attended MIHS and played basketball. When we got engaged, I moved to the island as well. We’ve been here almost 11 years now! I love the small community, the ability to see our friends on the east side and Seattle within 10 minutes, and the fact that we always see people we know when we are out and about.” In addition to being the Co-Owner of Premier Catch, Ashley also works as a registered dietitian nutritionist, so she has extensive knowledge of the health benefits of seafood, which she shares with Premier Catch’s customers.
Ashley and Joci’s husbands are brothers, and the two families live only a few miles apart from each other. Joci said, “Tyler and Jeff have a very special friendship which has led to our two families being very close. The connection we have is very unique, which helped when Ashley and I decided to start our business.”
Premier Catch was formed during the spring of 2020 at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Joci and Ashley felt it was the perfect time to figure out how to share the access they had to some of the most incredible seafood in the world. Their goal was to provide families with wild, sustainably-caught seafood in convenient portion sizes and packaging, so they could enjoy quality food combined with the convenience of cooking at home. “We literally started from scratch, creating our product list, ideal portion sizes, packaging and started working on logistics. We designed our logo and labels, designed a website and sourced and purchased a freezer van to transport our product.”
Joci and Ashley have access to such high-quality seafood because of their father-in-law, Dana F. Besecker. Dana and his wife, Jill, started out in the seafood industry over 40 years ago and have developed deep connections with any fishermen and processors in Alaska, Washington and Oregon. The Dana F. Besecker Co is a leading commercial wholesaler and global processor of quality seafood. Ashley's husband, Tyler, is now the president of Dana F. Besecker Company, and therefore, Joci and Ashley are able to partner with them to source and offer their seafood direct-to-consumer. Joci said, “We are passionate about the quality and the sustainability of our product. We think our seafood is beautiful and deserves to be celebrated and enjoyed to the fullest. The methods our fishermen and processors use to flash freeze our product makes it as fresh as if you were eating it straight from the boat. And it lasts, individually vacuum-sealed, in the freezer for up to one year.”
The company offers a selection of ten seafood selections for purchase, including wild Alaskan king salmon, wild Pacific halibut, wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, wild sablefish (black cod,) wild Alaska cod, wild Alaska spot prawns, Alaskan red king crab legs “Butterfly Split,” Dungeness crab "Snap-N-Eats," Alaskan weathervane scallops and canned albacore tuna. They even offer a seafood sample box where customers can try a variety of products. Joci said that the fisherman they partner with are just as passionate about keeping the oceans healthy as Joci and Ashley are, and all of their products are wild and sustainably-caught.
Starting a new business from scratch often requires a very hands-on approach, and Ashley and Joci wouldn’t have it any other way. Joci is the resident Premier Catch designer and has created everything from the company logo to the product labels, boxes and website. She also enjoys creating and sharing the Premier Catch recipes and can often be found photographing raw fish. Ashley wears another hat when she isn’t selling seafood for Premier Catch, she is also a registered dietitian nutritionist, working with professional athletes around the world. Ashley writes the seafood education blogs for Premier Catch and is the resident expert on omega-3 fatty acids and the health benefits of seafood. Ashley said, “While I’ve been shouting the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for years, I now have the unique opportunity to actually provide incredible seafood that fulfills those needs.”
Both Joci and Ashley have enjoyed hearing the community’s response to Premier Catch and seeing everyone’s support. Joci said, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from customers that they couldn’t find good quality fish so they didn’t eat it often, and now they’re eating it 3-4 times a week. Hearing the joy and excitement from customers is very fulfilling. It makes people happy, and we’re giving them something healthy to enjoy with their families in their homes and that brings me a lot of joy.”
Premier Catch began selling their products at Pop Up Shops. The first one launched on Mercer Island at the end of June 2020. To date, Joci and Ashley have hosted over 25 Pop Up Shops, from Seattle, Woodinville, Sammamish, Issaquah, Bellevue, Mercer Island and Lake Chelan. They also offer a weekly pick-up option on Mercer Island at “Performance Kitchen Crafted,” a local frozen meal company. There is a calendar on www.premiercatch.com so customers can order and select the location that works best for them. Mercer Island residents loved the seafood so much, they started requesting it for friends and family out of state, so Joci and Ashley added a shipping option in October 2020. In 2021, they will be focused on growing the shipping side of their business, while still “honoring our Mercer Island and local communities.”
Launching a new business has kept both women very busy, but they still manage to enjoy free time with their families. Joci and her family enjoy sports, boating, traveling, playing cards and cooking, while Ashley and her family love playing at the parks in Mercer Island, swimming at Mary Wayte Pool, fishing in Puget Sound and being involved in the MI Boys and Girls Cub in all sorts of sports.
It is easy to see why Premier Catch has been so successful and continues to grow. Their passion for high quality, sustainably caught seafood is a testament to Joci, Ashley and the entire Besecker family. To find out more about their products, family recipes and how to order, please visit www.premiercatch.com.