Well Done Deals: Focus on Niche Cataloging
This past year has seen a small, niche food purveyor begin its slow rise out of anonymity. Mackenzie Limited, a catalog of primarily high-end imported seafood, has struck two interesting deals. It acquired the consumer mail-order business of a domestic seafood supplier, and it signed a licensing and fulfillment deal with a seafood restaurant chain. Here’s the inside story on a catalog company that’s emerging onto the industry’s radar screen.
Baltimore-based Mackenzie Limited today is owned by the father-daughter team of Walter Cederholm and Laura McManus. Cederholm is a retired quality control specialist in the nuclear power industry and works at Mackenzie only a few months a year, primarily during the all-important holiday season. McManus runs the day-to-day operations. He is analytical and methodical. She is bubbly, articulate and warm. Fulfillment and operations interest him, while creative and merchandising get her talking. Both are astute entrepreneurs.
They bought the business in 1996 from James Mackenzie, a U.K. native who had inherited the business from his grandfather. Back then, 75 percent of sales came from the company’s signature Scottish smoked salmon.
But since that time, McManus has diversified and grown the product line, so that today, only 40 percent of sales come from smoked salmon. Other items include, for example, caviar from Russia, Iran and the United States; foie gras from France; British Stilton cheese; Scottish kippers; Maryland crab cakes; Japanese farm-raised scallops; Maine lobster specialties; Italian balsamic vinegars and olive oils; and a wonderful selection of gourmet desserts (including a $150 cheesecake) and gift baskets.
Mackenzie specializes in what McManus calls “artisanal foods,” that is, high-quality items made by small producers and not widely available. That mission, along with a smart strategy to diversify into domestic products, led McManus and Cederholm to buy the consumer mail-order division of Ducktrap River Fish Farm earlier this year.