Long-time employees buy Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Fish Market
Breakneck growth in Seattle, Washington is burying some of the city’s icons so quickly that there is an Instagram page with nearly 15,000 followers called “Vanishing Seattle.” It seems like around every corner, small businesses are being dozed under to make way for sprawling new multi-use buildings.
But Seattle’s most visible mom-and-pop seafood outlet, Pike Place Fish Market – front and center at the iconic Pike Place Market – has gone in the other direction, solidifying its lineage after a group of longtime employees recently purchased the 90-year-old business from John Yokoyama, who had run the stand since buying it from the original owners in 1965.
Anders Miller, 42, is among the group of four former managers who are now owners of the business, famous for its top-shelf seafood and charismatic fishmongers who toss products like wild-caught Alaska sockeye and king salmon through the air.
“People keep asking how it feels. And I’m like: It’s cool, but it kind of just feels the same. I’m still going to pick up fish guts off the ground if I see them, and I’m still going to show up in the morning and shovel the ice into the bucket,” said Miller, who started the job in July of 2000.
Business wasn’t always booming here – Yokoyama oversaw the transformation of Pike Place Fish Market, taking it from near bankruptcy in the 1980s to one of the most recognizable symbols of the Pacific Northwest. The 78-year-old Yokoyama – who ran the business with his brother Dick Yokoyama for decades – told The Seattle Times that he started the tradition of tossing fish to save walking around the counter to weigh the product at the scales, a practice that solidified the market as a magnet for tourists, television cameras, and celebrities.
Former managers Ryan Reese, Samuel Samson, and Jaison Scott – ranging in age from 40 to 52 – joined Miller in signing the lease, and among them they have decades of experience at the market. Not much will change at the market, according to Miller, and longtime suppliers can count on continuity as well.
“We were already doing the buying, so that’s going to be all the same. We do some buying from brokers, some from bigger wholesalers, some straight from the fishermen, he said" "We have some brokers who have been taking care of us for years, who we talk to every day.”