Smith Bros. Makes Fish A Real Treat

October 13th, 1967
Sentinel Staff Writer


In 1928 a group of hungry bowlers at a tournament here suggested that Evelyn C. Smith fry up some fresh lake Michigan fish for them. She did, they loved it, and by 1934 Evelyn Smith had so much take out business that a restaurant was opened under the name of the Smith Bros., a synonym for fish in Port Washington since 1848.

Twelve stools and two tables greeted the first customers on June 14 1934. Today, the attractive Smith Bros Fish Shantyon the the harbor features seating for over 500, ample parking and private dining rooms.

Fresh lake fish fish still is the speciality of the house, according to Lincoln Smith, office and advertising manager for Smith Bros. Lincoln's father, Oliver, is the current patriarch of the Smith cIan.

Oliver is the son of Delos Smith, who in 1915 bought out his brother, Herbert, to form the D. H. Smith & Sons firm.

Delos was the son of Gilbert Smith, who, with his father, William, left Lake Ontario about 1848 to come Amsterdam, between Sheboygan and Port Washington to fish. Gilbert headquartered at many sites around Port Washington, including Blakesville, before settling in Port Washington to stay in 1896.

From that year through very recent history, according to Lincoln Smith, the Smith Bros operated a large fleet of fishing tugs on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior. Today, Lincoln said, many of the fish come from such a great distance - the north end of Lake Michigan and from Lake Superior - that Smith Bros. buys them from other fishermen. The Oliver H. Smith is the last of of the Smith Bros. fishing boats. Its main task today is netting Lake Michigan chumbs which become smoked fish.

The man for whom the boat was named broke into the business with a big splash in 1916. On a tip he received that Denver fish brokers would pay handsome prices for small trout, Oliver began catching and shipping then. He parlayed this into orders of a thousand pounds a week, netting him $200 income a month. The first Model T. Ford in Port Washington and a new fishing boat for the business before rival fisheries woke up to the profitable venture.

There have been two disasters in the Smith Bros. history. In 1924, a flood swept away all the Smith Bros. buildings and most of their machinery. But, so many persons came to view the wrechakge that the Smith boys began selling fish to the spectators and before long
the fishery was tack in business.

A fire in 1953 destroyed the restaurant but its reputation was so good that the new Smith Bros. rose quickly from the ashes of the old.

Today, business interests iInclude restaurants in Los Angeles and Torrance, Calif.; fisheries in Port Washington and in Bete Gris, Mich. a fish store in Port Washington and two in Milwaukee, and a catering service and processing plant.

IN KEY POSITIONS in the firm today are Evelyn, general manager of the restaurants and Lloyd, manager of the Port Washington restuarant;Virginia, manager of the Torrance restaurant. Alan, general manager of the adjacent Indian Village shops; Dan, in charge of the fish production and caviar packing. Lincoln, office and advertising manager, and Bert, general manager of the Milwaukee wholesale and retail departments.

According to Lincoln, customers prefer lake trout to most varieties of fish on the menu. Other popular dishes, in order of sales, are whitefish, perch, walleyed pike, shrimp, lobster, scallops and red snapper, he said.

One of the firm's specialties is its caviar packing business, one of the largest in the United States. The cabviar is sold under the Land o' Lakes brand and much is exported to Europe, Lincoln said.

Most of the salt water fish is shpped in by air freight, Lincoln said.

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