A new stand has expanded the offerings available at the Lebanon Farmer’s Market. Lebanon Valley Seafood officially opened August 10.

Andrew Diaz and Martiea Manno own the stand, which features an array of fresh seafood as well as ready-to-serve dishes and seafood cooked to order.

Diaz and Manno are both from New Jersey, so they grew up eating seafood. They noticed the lack of seafood in the area, so they decided to start Lebanon Valley Seafood to fill that gap in the market.

“I’m a seafood lover, always have been,” said Manno. “Even though I’m selling it, I still love it.”

They have had a lot of interest from the community so far, and have even had some repeat customers, despite being open for such a short amount of time. They partially attribute this success to their interactions with market goers.

“We talk to everybody,” said Diaz. “We always gotta make everybody smile, gotta make everyone laugh.”

Manno talks with a customer while Diaz prepares their food order. When working together, Diaz typically prepares the hot food, Manno prepares the salads, and they both help customers. (Thyme Steele)

They purchase their seafood from various markets, including Samuels & Son Seafood Co. in Philadelphia, Off the Hook in New Jersey, and New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx. They also have a contact they buy from who crabs and fishes off of his own boat.

They buy the fish every Wednesday so that it is fresh for the market on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. 

“We want everything fresh, from the fish market or off the boat,” said Diaz. “We’re not going to just go to a grocery store and get some [fish].”

The selection that is available changes every week depending on prices and availability. They do research on each new type of seafood they sell so that they can give customers information such as nutritional values and cooking methods.

Lebanon Valley Seafood sells a variety of different types of seafood, including pre-prepared and fresh. The selection changes weekly depending on prices and availability. (Thyme Steele)

“When we go [to the fish market], we never know what’s going to happen,” said Manno. “Everything changes, but we try to keep things affordable [and] bring what people like.”

If customers are looking for a particular type of fish, Manno and Diaz will look for it when they go to the fish market.

“I just want to get what people want, whatever they want,” said Diaz. “Everyone has different tastes and, at the end of the day, I just want to make everyone happy.”

If they have fish left over at the end of the day on Saturdays, they give some of it to the owner of Penn Corner, who stores it and gives it out to some of the local homeless people. This reduces waste while giving back to the local community.

“We wanted to start a business to give back to the community and try to help,” said Diaz. “That’s all we’re trying to do, we’re trying to help.”

They are trying to form connections with other local businesses. They partnered with the owner of Zahncroft Beef, a farm and butcher shop in Womelsdorf, to sell fresh beef alongside their fish offerings. They are also talking with some other vendors, such as Aunt Hocker’s Fish Fry and Keener Poultry, about potentially collaborating in the future.

“I like this market,” said Diaz. “It [has] good vibes, good energy, and we all help each other out.“

“It’s a community.”

Manno worked full-time as a medical malpractice paralegal for almost 18 years but changed to part-time so she could focus on the business. She welcomes the change from being in an office all day.

“I was tired of the same thing every day and I wanted something new,” said Manno. “[I spent] all those years never getting to interact with anybody, so I honestly love talking with customers. That’s my favorite part of working for ourselves.”

For Diaz, Lebanon Valley Seafood has helped him become closer to his family and carry on his family’s legacy of working with seafood.

Diaz’s father has been a seafood chef for around 30 years, so he was part of the inspiration for starting the business and has been a continuous source of support for Manno and Diaz. He teaches them some of his own recipes and offers feedback on new ones they are trying out.

“That’s my father, so I want to make him happy,” said Diaz. “Every day, I’m just trying to make my family happy, my community happy, [and] everyone around me happy.”

Between doing research, prepping, making menus, traveling to the fish market, running the stand, and their everyday jobs, Manno and Diaz are almost constantly working. 

“It’s way more work, but it’s just so satisfying,” said Manno. “We’re learning a ton daily.”

This is their first time owning a business, so everything is new to them, but they welcome the challenges.

“We look forward to the challenges because if you’re not getting challenged, you’re not going to grow,” said Diaz. “You’ve got to take risks in life if you want to be happy.”

Overall, Manno and Diaz hope to continue serving the Lebanon Farmer’s Market and the local community as a whole.

“Food brings everybody together in the community. ,” said Diaz. “It goes beyond race, beyond gender, anything.

“Something about food just helps everybody out and makes everybody happy.” 

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