It only takes a small, perhaps well-ventilated room, to smoke a cigar, but it will take four floors and 95,000 square feet to smoke a fish – particularly if you are processing hundreds of thousands of them.
And that’s the main reason why Brooklyn’s own fourth-generation family-run ACME fish company is seeking to develop and expand its current one-story factory at 26 Gem Street in Greenpoint into four stories plus a semi-attached nine-story building that will allow for commercial and retail use.
“We view this project as accomplishing several objections,” said Jeffrey Fronek of Rubenstein, a private equity firm that is partnering with the family on the project, which will require a zoning change. “The first is to keep a very highly regarded family-owned business in the neighborhood for generations to come.”
Once approved, the expansion would come in two phases that build into surrounding spaces of the block bounded by Meserole Avenue, Banker Street and Wythe Avenue. The first phase would expand ACME’s facilities and then build the ancillary commercial space.
ACME and Rubenstein say that the economic benefits of the expansion would include retaining 140 at ACME and add an additional 2,000 jobs with the new commercial space.
Russian immigrant Harry Brownstein founded the company in 1906 selling wholesale smoked fish out of a horse-drawn cart to local delis and bakeries with the dream of one day having his own smokehouse. That dream came to fruition with his first smokehouse opening in Brownsville in 1937.
In 1941, Rubin Caslow, who became a smoked fish jobber right after high school, married Charlotte Brownstein, Harry’s daughter, who worked as a bookkeeper at her father’s company. Meanwhile, both of Harry’s sons, Joseph and Morton begin working in the smoked fish industry in 1946 after serving in the Army during World War II.
In 1954 Harry, with his two sons opened his own smoked fish plant, Acme Smoked Fish at 26 Gem Street in a small rented space owned by a funeral parlor. In 1966, the factory was re-built after damage from a major fire.
Now, great-grandchild and current co-CEO Adam Caslow says that staying in Brooklyn is important to the company and to future generations to come.
He also said that ACME will continue its tradition of Fish Fridays, which sees the plant open to the public for special retail sales from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Friday.
“Being in Brooklyn is such a big part of our identity,” said Caslow.