Family built business
It all started with two coke freezers and a pickup, Tony Lombardi hawking fresh seafood from the bed of his truck across the state of Florida.
Today Winter Park’s favorite seafood market for the past five decades has expanded into a bigger location with more offerings, with Baldwin Parker Michael Lombardi at the helm growing the business that his grandfather started back in 1961.
He and his wife Toby relocated to Baldwin Park three years ago to be closer to the family business, Lombardi’s Seafood, which sat at its former location at the corner of Orange Avenue and U.S. Highway 17-92 for 50 years.
This year, the family business relocated to Fairbanks Avenue and made a new home from scratch.
“This is such a good feel, it’s fresh and new and a nice environment to work in,” Toby said looking around the new seafood showroom. “It gives us so much more opportunity.”
There’s a warehouse in the back where wholesale fish is sold, and organized refrigeration cabinets up front showing off what’s fresh this week for retail shoppers. In the corner sits a café with fresh fish offerings, where a lunch-rush of locals dine on high-top tables.
The Lombardis are getting used to being a part of the restaurant business, using the work ethic that’s been passed through their family for generations, and passing that ethic down to their two kids as well.
Over the summer their daughter Hannah manned the register at Lombardi’s, the 14-year-old working hard to earn money to by her very own MacBook. Meanwhile 10-year-old Max can be found picking up cigarette butts in the parking lot and washing down tables – the same things his father did around the shop as a boy.
“It’s truly a family business through and through,” Michael said. “…Every day more than anything I want to make my dad and grandad proud… That’s what keeps me going.”
Michael regularly shows up to work before the sun, and doesn’t leave until well after it’s gone. He’s calling the coast to see what fish is coming in arranging orders and shipments.
“That’s the way his father is too,” Toby said. “They want to make sure it all gets done right.”
The Lombardis work hard to know that everything that’s on their shelves is the absolute freshest around.
“It’s in and out every day,” Michael said. “That’s the best way to do it. I’d rather be out of something than long on something.”
Long clear display cases line the counter at Lombardi’s filled with slabs of fish, some intact from eyes to fin other carved into separate servings. Then there’s the seafood, staring out at you from crustacean shells. The Lombardis worked hard to make sure their smell doesn’t pass the counter, letting customers enjoy the atmosphere without having to inhale it while they’re shopping or dining.
Michael said he’s been happy to see that his regulars from their old location have followed them over to Fairbanks, and even more excited about the new business the new location has been drawing in. Every happy customer that comes and goes helps reassure Michael that his grandfather would be proud of how Lombardi’s has grown.
“This is what he’s always wanted to do,” Toby said.