Thursday, July 8, 2010

You click, Chase pays, our family wins!

The FISH video that was made 14 years ago captured something special; it captured a bit of who we are and a bit of what makes us tick. What makes us as an organization "tick" though is a collection of individual commitment. Us as a group can't do too much, but each person playing his role to the best of his abililty makes for what we call "wholes in allignment". We are wholes at work and we are wholes outside of work (cause let's face it, this place isn't just a job).

The FISH video shows us at work and I swear if someone were to make a film that would come close to its success, it would be about us as people and who we are in life and who we are in the community. A workplace is a workplace and you can turn that on and off, but you always have to look at yourself in the mirror when the gates close. The collection of fishmongers that have clocked in at this place know that the skills and experiences at this place do not stop with seafood. From Dan Bugge and his phenomenally successful restaurant "Matt's in the Market" to Darren Killian and his work at the Recovery Cafe here in Seattle, those are just two of the examples of recent Pike Place Fish graduates.

One alumnus in particular who's doing great things for his community is Doug Strauss. Doug married his high school sweetheart and made seven little Strausses all while becoming a full time teacher and working at Pike Place Fish. After a long battle with cancer, his daughter Gloria passed away in 2007. Following a Pullitzer-Prize nominated series of articles, Seattle Times reporter Jerry Brewer wrote the book Gloria's Miracle as a testament to the power within Gloria and the Strauss family. If you spend any amount of time with or around the Strausses, you can feel the joy, peace and love coming out of every one of them. We like to say it started at a fish market, and I'm sure his patience for the seven little ones was fine-tuned by working a retail fish market.

Either way, Doug and his wife Kristen now run a non-profit out of Federal Way, Washington in Gloria's honor called "Gloria's Angels".

From their website: We accomplish our mission in the following ways:

  • Lifting burdens - guiding families through the maze of services so they can focus on care, not burdensome procedures
  • Comprehensive approach - walking with people across the spectrum of needs, partnering with service agencies across all elements of care (Medical, Spiritual, Professional, Domestic, Community)
  • Filling gaps - providing for essential needs not covered by other agencies
  • Building communities - connecting community-based volunteers with people in their own neighborhood during their times of great need and beyond

Chase Bank is giving away thousands of dollars in the next couple days and they're doing it based on online votes. They have the money, you don't have to give any for this push. All you have to do is vote for Gloria's Angels on facebook. The link is right here, corporate giving programs are amazing ways to help out community organizations and our blog is an even better way to let you know how our family is helping others. We sell fish but as we all know, we're here to spread peace and love for the world. Well folks, I hate to say it, but today it starts on click to vote for the Strauss family! Chase Commuinity Giving, Gloria's Angels, vote for free so the work of the Strauss family gets some support.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fishguys on the radio

Speaking alongside Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet, Bryan and Anders stopped by an online radio show to chat it up with "Into the Soup".

Their spot is around minute 28, discussing our upcoming cookbook! The host Heidi, pictured here, digs it and she says you should too. Bryan and Anders will probably be back on her show again, we'll be sure to let you know

Friday, June 11, 2010

pictures from the MDA lockup event

Scotty, his "parole officer" Candace and one of the arresting firefighters who donated a day of his time for MDA.

In the Qwest Field Lounge made to be like uh.....Hollywood.

Tabby helped me navigate the jail cell and made sure I got the full education on where our donations went for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in King County.

Although they didn't use the handcuffs to drag Scotty through the market, they did get lost in the BMW paddy wagon that took them all over Seattle.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pre-arresting meditation

We're about 45 minutes out from my "arrest" by the Muscular Dystrophy Association. They're a charity and I'm a perfectly obedient, law-abiding citizen. Their arrest includes firefighters and a brand new, BMW uh..."paddy-wagon". It's an odd feeling knowing you're being arrested, a sort of impending doom right? I have money from my list of donating friends and I'm going in a luxury car, not exactly a customary arrest.

The theater of it all is quite convincing; the arrest, my parole officer Candace at MDA who emails me and calls me, a website with kids in police uniforms. It's just another Tuesday here in Seattle and I do believe I'm still not quite sure how to be about all this. I don't really have an idea of what I'm doing at this "event" which makes for an interesting new space; a space free of preconceptions. I may have thrown a fish and shoveled ice a billion times over my years, but never like this before right? Creating an act as new every single time no matter how many times you've done it takes an intention.

Having done charity events in the past with the Livestrong organization or running a 5k and attending info sessions about an organization's role in the community, I do feel confident in the way all this stuff goes down; you reach out to friends, family and coworkers to raise some money and enjoy the event. What's pretty exciting about this one is that we raised almost $200 from our customers yesterday and I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing at this event. No bikes, no running, just a forum where we can be Pike Place Fish at a big, Seattle event.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Choo-choo-choose me

Same fish, two prices. Why?
They're not the same and because we like distinctions so much around here, we'll lay it out:

One is previously frozen, one is fresh.
One is from China, one is from Equador.
One is cheap because it's plentiful and comes from a place with no accountability to their practices.
The other, is sustainably raised and distributed by a wholesale fish distributor partnered with Whole Foods.

What we did at our meeting two weeks ago was commit to being a fish market that stands for sustainability, completely by January 1. The earth provides what we sell, and therefore we owe it all we can. This means constantly looking at the Monterrey Bay Seafood Watch, demanding more from our suppliers, carrying new stuff and probably getting rid of some stuff.

"It's two shows of tilapia," Dicky laughs. "The sustainable one is double the price, we gotta give people the choice for now".
In an environment where everyone from UW football Coach Steve Sarkisian ($1.85 million salary) to the neighborhood folks living in low income housing and the temporary shelter dwellers buy fish for less than a dollar.....a choice is what we can offer. Making a choice is empowering and we hope that by us making a choice for better fish, customers will see the importance and power of the purse in the health of our planet and fisheries. Will we continue to carry two displays of tilapia? Probably not, but between the new sustainably raised ling cod and the new tilapia, today was a big day for Pike Place Fish.

As he dropped off our new selection of responsibly raised tilapia, Rick Cavanaugh of Select Fish (wholesaler for Whole Foods) added his support: "If you guys are going down the sustainability route, just know I can help. It can be a tough slope, but the world has a listening".
With over 10 million people at the Pike Place Market every year, a lot of whom come by our stand, we have a responsibiliity to take a stand for who we are and what we we want to see in the world. We can have fun at work, we're real good at that, but it's time for better seafood. We can't do this alone, so please keep the comments coming and know we thrive on discussion.

Up Next:
Thursday meeting with Mashiko Japanese Seafood Restaurant.
Muscular Dystrophy Association lockup event with the Seattle Seahawks

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A chat with Johnny

As a follow-up to the steelhead announcement, we bring you a brief conversation with John Yokoyama, the long-time owner of Pike Place Fish. He stopped in the market to grab some vegetables and a fat, Copper River King steak for dinner and answered a few questions.

How long have you been at Pike Place Fish?
My dad owned the stand that was fruit and vegetables beside me and I've owned the fish market since 1965.

Tell us about your experience fishing in the Puget Sound.

This was in the early 50s, but we would fish in Edmunds and Whidbey Island, the Green River. We'd get pissed off if we didn't catch something in the first 10 minutes! Black cod, ling cod, true cod, yellow eyes, sometimes halibut. If we caught steelhead, we'd give it away..too dry for me anyway. I'm not sure you can even go catch those things anymore around here. I fish for kings still on nice days.

What do you hear from buyers and suppliers about certain fish's availability, questions of sustainability?

Well you see certain species declining in availability, prices going up and even the sizes getting smaller. We used to see petrale sole like this and now there just tiny! It's not really "whisper down the lane" with the supply chain but you buy fish for as long as I have, you really do see the whole industry evolving a bit. We're definitely in a new era from when I was first an owner.

What does that "new era" mean for you as an owner?

This steelhead move is a good example, we're basically catering to what people have told us. We as a group decided, it wasn't just me saying "this is how it's going to be." Over time, different guys brought up certain articles, certain emails from people, looked up their own research. We then said hey, in order to really BE our commitment, we may have to stop selling this.

Seems almost backward from a business sense?
Yeah, it was a fish that we sold ya know? It's not like it was something that didn't make us money. But it's not in line with who we are and want to be. It's funny because stopping something that helped make your business money doesn't seem right. But to us as a group and to me, integrity is more important.

Does the response suprise you?
I'm 68 so the instantaneous response is overwhelming, so quickly we heard from people! We're here to serve and take care of people and if they don't want something, what are we to do?

So change is a no-brainer?

Well it's not easy. I'm not the same person or business owner I was 30 years ago. If you had asked me to stop selling something then, I would have told you to take a walk. My mind has changed, I've changed and you wouldn't have even known me then....let alone wanted to work for me! Change can be instantaneous like making a hard decision about an employee going somewhere else and the team integrity is back OR it can be a long process like this sustainability move for us at Pike Place Fish. It's not going to happen overnight, but I'm glad we're doing what we're doing. This could get in the media you know?

Does that scare you?
Not at all, go ahead and bring it. All we have done in the past and something big we can do now is lead by example. We can't tell people how to run their business, all we can do is show that we care about who we are and what we sell. For you guys that work here, you're creating the business the way you want it for your future. I'm not going to be around forever as an owner so it's up to my guys to make this place the way they want it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A "retired" fishmonger's continued work

May 15th and 16th 2010 meant the Seattle Cheese Festival. Tents, trucks and toothpicks dotted the market as folks milled about (some with red wine on the lips and throwin' elbows to get that damn free sample!). For two days, the street was chauk-full of people and blocked off to normal traffic. We were selling our fish as normal, touting the merits of smoked salmon and buttery Beecher's Handmade Clean Slate. The sun was out and the Copper River Kings and Sockeyes flew like boeing 747's. So basically, just another weekend in Seattle.

Once the bars are full at 7pm, there's a line around the block at the Showbox Theater, and people begin to make dinner plans, nine-year fishmonger Anders Miller and former fishmonger turned restaurateur Dan Bugge are hard at work. Steamer clams with chorizo and white wine fill the air. Two floors above the market bricks at Matt's in the Market, Anders and Dan's party of 14 has downed their pork belly pattes, Mamma Lil's Peppers and are beginning to drool for their Skagit River King Salmon and halibut dusted with Asparagus puree and pancetta.

"We've been doing this for five or six years now," Dan says referring to his participation in the Jacob Green's charity auction.
"He's retired from the tossing part at the auction but we can still collaborate on the food," Anders says as he maneuvers around his fellow chef-coat clad, backwards hat wearing fishmonger and long-time friend. "We've been buddies for a long time, I'm just glad we can keep a tradition like this going."

After two or three years of the auction dinner occurring at the winner John DeVore's house in Redmond, Dan and Anders have been throwing this private party at Dan's 52-seat restaurant ever since he became co-owner back in 2007. "We're not usually open on Sunday nights. I can cook with my buddy for a charity with awesome people and not stress about anything else," Dan says.

In his 13 year National Football League career, Jacob Green played twelve seasons for the Seattle Seahawks, as number 79, and one season for the San Francisco 49ers. As his father endured chemo, Green decided to begin using his fame for a good cause at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Dan, being a longtime Seahawk fan and experiencing something similar with his father wanted to get on board. "Whether it's for the Kirkland Boys and Girls Club with Steve Largent or here at my own restaurant, the auctions are always fun. We raise tons of money for a good cause and hopefully in the future, we'll continue to grow."

We at Pike Place Fish give back a lot and whenever we can do so with food, you can be sure it's good. "Keeping it local, fresh and now a partnership with the fish market and my restaurant, it's only going to get better," said Dan.

With a solid group of return diners, one including Don James the "Dawgfather" of University of Washington football, you can't fault Dan and Anders for being ambitious. "You coached me well Mr. James," said Anders. "At the auction when I caught a fish, you had to remind me to put down my wine glass! So thanks coach".

This summer at the Westin in Seattle, the auction will happen again and if John DeVore's has anything to say about it, you won't get anywhere near his hallowed tradition. "Good part is we can have a delicious dinner served by two guys we trust, and my friends and family can experience what the market has to offer; some of them have never even been down here," says DeVores.