by David Cecelski
I’m sad to report that Tom Robinson died of the H1N1 (swine) flu on Friday night. He will be missed something terrible. Tom was a graceful, caring soul, with a light heart and an incandescent spirit. He was also a great fishmonger. For four decades, his Carrboro seafood market has been the one place in the state’s piedmont where I could count on finding the fresh, seasonal fish and shellfish that I grew up with on the North Carolina coast. Clams from Jarretts Bay, oysters from Mill Creek, bay scallops from Bogue Sound—Tom had them all. I purchased everything from striped bass to mullet roe from him.
More than that, though, was the way Tom ran his shop. Local fish markets are a dying breed, but Tom took a little cinderblock shack and turned it not just into a successful business, but a community. I wasn’t surprised when Salvadore Bonilla, his right-hand man, told me that Tom was “like a father to me”—I could feel the whole staff’s reverence for Tom whenever I was there. Tom also made sure that his fish market was the cutting edge of environmental sustainability, inclusiveness, and just plain good neighborliness. To me he took his little corner of the world and made a little piece bit of heaven here on Earth. .
Tom Robinson’s Carolina Seafood will remain open under Salvadore’s care. He and Tom’s other employees are determined to carry the business forward in a way that would make Tom proud and I am sure they will. The market is located at 207 Roberson St. in downtown Carrboro, catty-corner to the town’s emergency-rescue station. As always, it’s open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.