It’s officially a community barn-raising.
An effort to raise money and rebuild a Beaufort County seafood institution spread in recent weeks with the help of volunteers and social media. Now the first sections of Gay Fish Co.’s storm-ravaged docks can be rebuilt in time for shrimp season.
Organizers expect work to begin the first week of April and finish by June.
“Everybody is convinced now it’s going to happen,” said dock builder Richard Knieriem, who is volunteering to oversee the construction.
The St. Helena business started in 1948 and sits just off Sea Island Parkway near Harbor Island with sweeping views of the surrounding marsh and creeks. Working shrimp boats offload fish, shrimp and other fresh catches to sell in the market on the property.
Gay Fish has struggled since Hurricane Matthew heavily damaged the docks in 2016, and the Gay family’s minimal repairs were set back again after Tropical Storm Irma last fall. The family listed the property for sale last year.
A group of loyal customers and volunteers met in February to help ensure the seafood business’ doors remain open, even as the property is on the market.
They started a GoFundMe online fundraising page that had been shared hundreds of times and raised more than $5,500, more than enough to build the first two 40-foot dock sections. That’s almost 25 percent of the campaign’s $24,000 goal to rebuild the full 200 feet of dock.
A video produced by former journalist Jeff Kidd to help raise awareness had been viewed more than 14,000 times and shared almost 300 times on Facebook as of Friday. The video’s reach has sparked calls and donations from out of state.
“From that perspective, Gay Fish Company has touched a lot of people,” Knieriem said. “That’s what we were trying to do, reach people who come here to visit, not just people who live here. And it’s working.”
Local HVAC companies have volunteered to work on the seafood market building’s air conditioning, freezers and ice makers.
The first dock repairs will begin near the building and move out. Dock materials are being provided at below retail from a Charleston supplier, and the dock will be rebuilt with volunteer labor and overseen by Knieriem.
Anyone who wants to help will be put to work safely, Knieriem said.
Knieriem said he has been involved in past volunteer efforts with the Boy Scouts and Habitat for Humanity and would ensure everyone has necessary equipment and state regulations are followed.
Those wishing to help can email Moe Phifer at email@example.com.