Longtime fisherman Mike Svedise would have wanted business at his family’s popular Santa Rosa Avenue seafood store and restaurant to carry on despite his sudden and unexpected death Friday night, his son, Sal Svedise, said Saturday.
And that’s what happened, but it wasn’t without emotion that Svedise’s eldest son spoke of his father against the din of retail operations at Santa Rosa Seafood, which was open, along with the adjacent Santa Rosa Seafood Raw Bar and Grill.
“He was a great guy,” Sal Svedise said, his voice choking as he recounted the life of his father, a well-known Bay Area fisherman, fish monger and restaurateur. “He had a great personality. He was always outgoing. He was extremely generous, and would always do random acts of kindness for people he didn’t even know.”
Mike Svedise, 59, was a North Beach native and third-generation fisherman who moved northward little by little over the years, finally finding his way to Santa Rosa and the Windsor home he shared with his wife of 33 years, Trudy Svedise.
It was she who discovered her husband, coming home from work late. He appeared to have died in his sleep.
The youngest of five children and the only boy, Mike Svedise was connected to the ocean and its abundance from his days as a child, when he would cut classes and sneak aboard his uncle’s boat or hang out at the San Francisco wharf earning a few dollars catching fish or shining shoes.
He bought his first commercial fishing boat in 1976, focusing on king salmon, Dungeness crab and rock-fish.
For many years, he worked at his uncle’s San Francisco smokehouse, United Shell Seafood Co., on Pier 47. When he took the place over, he renamed it Old Wharf Smokehouse.
By then, he had met and married Trudy, a twin who arranged for her sister to go on a double date with him. Trudy was with her boyfriend and her sister with Mike. But Trudy was drawn to her sister’s date, their son said.
“He was a nice guy, with long hair and he had a motorcycle,” Sal Svedise said.
The couple had three sons and a daughter, raising them in Mill Valley, Novato and eventually Santa Rosa.
At one point, when Sal Svedise was very young, they had a Corte Madera eatery called Baby Sal’s.
When they eventually lost the lease on the Old Wharf Smokehouse and became full-time Sonoma County residents, they regained their footing selling their fresh fish products, including trademarked “smoasted” salmon and trout, which is both smoked and roasted, at farmers markets. The Svedises are well known and regarded for their warm approach to customers in a variety of North Bay markets in Santa Rosa, Calistoga, Windsor and San Rafael.
When a retail space came open on Santa Rosa Avenue about 15 years ago, they opened Santa Rosa Seafood, specializing in fresh locally caught and exotic fish and shellfish, including sushi-grade raw fish. The Raw Bar and Grill opened in 2015.
Running a fleet of three boats out of Bodega Bay, Mike Svedise somehow managed to keep all the balls in the air, with the help of his family,