LAKE CITY — Seven years of fighting for recognition look like they have finally paid dividends for Murray’s David Fields.
The former Murray High School basketball coach, athletic director and assistant principal, who left that field to pursue his dream of running a fish-oriented business, specifically with American-produced caviar, talked Wednesday about the aftermath of his story finally being shown to a nation-wide audience. Sunday, news giant NBC Nightly News aired the story about his America’s Best Caviar based in the Lake City community of Livingston County.
The two-minute piece with NBC correspondent Kevin Tibbles was the last item to be broadcast on Sunday’s program.
“It truly has been humbling and overwhelming,” said Fields, who said that, with the realization of getting his story to such a wide audience, has come a much faster pace of activity. “As soon as it ran, my wife (Jessica) says, ‘Well, have you gotten any orders yet, honey?’ So I go to my email and it is just flooded. I couldn’t believe it. So, within 30 minutes of that story running, I was packing up and heading back up (to Lake City). I think I may have slept seven hours since then.
“I had to go to Louisville (Tuesday) to pitch an idea because I was contacted by people running a (Kentucky) Derby party. I am absolutely exhausted, but I wasn’t about to cancel that.”
Fields’ product is unique in that it is believed to be the only caviar produced in America that is wild caught, meaning it does not come from pond-raised fish. For instance, for the NBC Nightly News story, Fields and one of his commercial anglers met a film crew several weeks ago in Henderson for an excursion on the Ohio River.
Then, after spending several hours on the Ohio, the team drove back to Lake City, where Fields’ team at the Lake City Fish Market processed the caviar from the fish caught that day. Two species are the primary producers, sturgeon, which are known worldwide for caviar production, and the paddlefish.
The interview with Tibbles was conducted inside the fish market about three weeks later. Then, a few days before the piece aired, Fields received a phone call from an NBC producer to tell him the story would be airing on Sunday.
“I’ve been told that’s the most-watched day for that show, so this was great,” said Fields, who admitted to having great skepticism that this would actually happen.
“Let’s just say, more or less, we’ve had a lot of empty promises over the years, We had a reality show in the works that had been purchased through the History Channel, but it fell through. And we had a few other things we thought were about to happen that would also, for whatever reason, fall through at the last minute.”
So, toward the first of last year, Fields, a Murray State graduate who had grown up in nearby Mayfield, said business was “kind of in a rut.” However, he remembered how he had heard from people about how business constantly changes. He also played on his experiences as a basketball player at Mayfield High School, where he won a First Region championship in 1992, and how he was taught that, if things were not going well, to find a way to make a play.
“So I figured the best thing to do was to go to take the business to others, so I began going online one day looking at all kinds of outlets I could contact,” he said. “Then, one of those contacts responded. It was a writer from the Louisville Courier-Journal who said she wanted to do a story for their food section. So she came down at the end of March or early April and everything seemed to go well.
“Then, a few months went by and the writer tells me that it’s not going to run on the food section, but on the front of the entire paper, and it was great. The only thing is the caviar season was over and we didn’t have any inventory. It was from that, though, that we later got the call from NBC.”
Originally, NBC was wanting to run a story on Fields’ business for an online reality program it was planning on people who have left their jobs to pursue their dream as entrepreneurs. But, like so many other opportunities, this one also seemed to go nowhere.
And, predictably perhaps, the idea was dropped. Then, Fields said he received a call from an NBC producer.
“‘We’re going to pitch this to Nightly News,’” he remembered hearing on the phone. “I was like, ‘OK, whatever.’ But then, 30 minutes later, the producer calls back and says, ‘Dude, we’ve got it!’”
That was in December, but the death of former President George H.W. Bush would put a temporary crimp in things. Once that coverage faded, focus returned to Lake City. Tibbles soon was at the fish market, even sampling the caviar, and engaging Fields in an on-camera interview that lasted more than an hour.
That led to Sunday.
“You know, I miss being with the students (at Murray High) every day,” he said. “But on every stop along the way so far, I’ve learned that I’m here for a reason. God put me in this position so He deserves the glory, but I’ve had a tremendous support team with this.”
Jesse Speed, son of Murray High Principal Teresa Speed, is one of Fields’ employees in Lake City. Wednesday, Teresa recalled when Fields was about to make the decision to pursue his dream.
“He was assistant principal at the time, so this was a very difficult thing for him. He was leaving the safety of education,” she said, noting how the two had many a conversation about what was to come. “He was a mess and that’s because those kids meant so much to him, and they loved him.
“I was at church when (the NBC feature aired) Sunday night and I still haven’t seen it yet. I’ve heard all about it, though. Jesse works for him, but David I look at as my kid too. I’m so proud of him and for everybody up there.”