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Seafood, fuel businesses in Columbus feeling effects of Gulf oil spill

While the oil has stopped flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, businesses in the Columbus area continue to feel uneasy.

“I’ve been in the seafood business for 35 years, and I’ve never seen it this bad,” said Frank Gonzalez, owner of Frank’s Fish and Seafood Market in the west side of Columbus. “We’ve had three big hits; the earthquake in Chile, then the volcano, and now this with the oil spill.”

Seafood restaurants and shops in the greater Columbus area are suffering due to higher wholesale prices and fewer options for distribution.

“Shrimp, oysters, crabs, and whole fish have all seen price increases,” said Gonzalez. “Oysters are moving up in price, they’re going to cost roughly $100 a gallon. Shrimp costs are eight times what they used to be depending on the size.”

As prices on certain items continue to climb, moving the seafood has been a constant struggle.

“We’re barely moving what we did last year and we’ve hired two more sales people. We’re talking about being down nearly $10,000 a week in wholesale. It’s had a major impact.”

Gonzalez wasn’t the only one who spied troubled waters ahead.

“We haven’t been affected yet, but we know it’s coming,” said Chris Allen, an employee at the Fish Guys in the North Market. “That area is devastated, finding and buying shrimp is going to be an issue.”

While the seafood market is bracing for disaster, local oil company Englefield Oil believes the worst of it has already passed. Englefield Oil owns 127 gas stations in the area, more than 40 of which are BP gas stations.

“When this thing first occurred, it was scary because people were so mad at BP, we figured people would just completely stop buying from us,” said Bill Englefield IV, co-President of the Englefield Oil Co.

“We saw a drop in volume and sales in the Columbus area,” said Ben Englefield, Bill’s brother and co-President. “But those stores are back up to where they were in terms of sales last year, it was just a temporary thing.”

Bill agreed that sales were back to normal levels, and hoped that the people understand what they’re doing when they refuse to shop at BP.

“We’ve tried to explain to everybody, be it through notices or advertisements at our stores, that this is a privately owned company, these are owned and operated by local people,” said Bill. “No one should want to hurt us, or the local people that work here. We’re all a part of the same neighborhood, same communities.”

Bill also stressed that BP has been more than helpful whenever they’ve needed assistance.

“They’ve worked with us and have tried to help us when they could, they paid a pretty big portion of the costs for our advertisements,” Bill said.

As the Englefield Oil Co. is just getting out of the woods, local consumers may soon see gas prices back on the rise.

“Oil prices will go up,” said William Mitsch, director of the Olentangy River Wetland Research Park. “They will go up as the blame game starts, and lawyers and clients start receiving gigantic settlements. Also, when a clean up of some kind begins.”

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