Behind an awful stench in St. Louis, an Orlando(ish) Republican

Bowen Kou was president of the store that left 8,000 pounds of seafood to rot — and Bowen Kou is running for state senate in Central Florida

click to enlarge Seafood City in University City, near St. Louis. Now closed. - Google Maps
Seafood City in University City, near St. Louis. Now closed.

A shuttered seafood store's rotting fish caused a stench across the St. Louis suburb of University City this week. Now it turns out the Missouri fish story may have a connection to something else that stinks on the regular: Florida politics.

St. Louis County shut down Seafood City in December 2022 for health code violations. Many months later, neighbors began to notice a terrible smell that gradually grew worse and worse. According to Fox 2 News, this week University City officials discovered "tons" of unsold fish left to rot in non-functioning freezers. One estimate said the store’s owners had left 8,000 pounds of food behind. Cleanup could take weeks.

Documents filed last year with the Missouri secretary of state's office show that the president of Seafood City Inc. is Bowen Kou, whose address is listed as East Lansing, Michigan. 

And Kou is almost certainly the same Bowen Kou running for state senate as a Republican in Florida. The biography on his campaign website says that Kou owns nine grocery stores, "providing livelihood for more than 500 families." That seems to be referencing the Fresh International Market chain of stores, which began in East Lansing — also the home of Kou's alma mater, Michigan State University. 

The precise connection between Fresh International Market and Seafood City is not clear, but a Bowen Kou is listed as Seafood City’s president in business filings and the listed East Lansing address is the site of a Fresh International Market.

Kou's LinkedIn boasts that Fresh International Market "has partnered with some of the best restaurants, bakeries, and retailers in recent years." Perhaps Seafood City was one of those retailers — though "best" may be a bit of a stretch, given that last year it fared poorly on a health department inspection, was ordered closed and reportedly remained open for several months anyway.

click to enlarge Bowen Kou is running for Florida state senate. - Screengrab from Bowen Kou's campaign website
Screengrab from Bowen Kou's campaign website
Bowen Kou is running for Florida state senate.

We left multiple voicemails and sent multiple emails to Kou’s campaign and will update the story if we hear back.

Kou is running to replace Dennis Baxley in Florida's District 13, which after 2022's redistricting was hugely transformed — from a swath across the middle of Orange County into a monster stretching from the Polk County line all the way up into the Ocala National Forest, taking in GOP retirement hive the Villages, most of solid-red Lake County and — surprise! — Orlando's theme parks, while neatly excising most of the actual city of Orlando.

Key planks of Kou's campaign include promises he will "end the woke agenda" and "say no to socialism." He also describes himself as pro-life, pro-Second Amendment and interested in getting rid of toll roads in central Florida. 

A perusal of Kou’s website doesn't address his stance on businesses that leave tons of fish to rot in a shuttered seafood shop.

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