Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holidays at the fish market

We all find ourselves on the brink of greatness. On the brink of seafood serenity, on the brink of stupendous shipping, on the brink of a helluva holiday..........

on the brink of a day off!

Of the past 14 days, a majority of us have shown up every single day to work 12 hours. I'm sure there are nurses and doctors out there saying "wah wah wah" but hey, alls we know is fish, yelling, cutting, lifting, shoveling, and answering the phone with a credit card in our mouth, a fish in the hand and five different numbers in our head. We are multitasking masters and good god it's time for a day off.

Shipping has gone well, and the mantra of "controlled chaos" has rung true. With two computers, four phone lines and 14 guys running around, we have moved a helluva lot of seafood over the past 14 days. We are humans and mistakes happen, but for a group of young guys who gather at 6:30am everyday in 28 degree, snowy weather for two solid weeks is pretty amazing.

Our "box manager" Tyler has made sure each one is equipped with styrofoam, tape and the proper newspaper. Our shipping manager Jeremy has been tracking down UPS boxes like a wild game hunter in the rainforest. And yes, oh yes, Ryan Yokoyama has been working the phones like a seasoned family business owner (his dad is the manager and his uncle owns the joint!) assuring people their holidays will go off with the least amount of hitches that we can help.
"it's fun to experience a Christmas at the shop without having to make boxes, I've finally arrived!" he says.

With the weather playing a huge role in much of the country this December, we at the market have shown up keeping normal hours every day as if the city of Seattle was not shutting down their airport, bus system and many other municipal duties.
"It's not the damn apocalpyse," says Scott the driver "it's just snow. I gotta get to the aiport!"

With many customers having been very understanding, our preferred carrier UPS has gone above and beyond. When Seattle claimed the "worse storm in over 30 years", we had a chain-clad truck at our shop a day early collecting packages for the following morning.
"Dude, I just got a call from someone in New Mexico. We shipped their stuff yesterday, it went to Louisville and they had it by noon today. That's crazy!" Anders says in our morning huddle. "UPS called and said all things that may not have gotten there, they are automatically updating to Saturday delivery," says Jeremy. We hope it is comforting to every single one of our customers that we are all stretching to make this holiday go well. We work hard, our suppliers work hard, our shippers work hard, we want a seamless, happy holiday.

We stand on the brink of a great Christmas eve and hope our seafood finds its home with you and your loved ones.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

World Famous Jumping Jacks

We present a 360 degree view of Pike Place Fish on a snowy, December Thursday. With all the shippers packed, and all the other market stands gone for the day, we declare ourselves the winners and remember that it's still snowing and below freezing! I swear there is a customer there and it was totally worth it. Yes......those are world famous jumping-jacks.

Holy Snowy Thursday!

Schools are closed, buses are jack-knifed on first avenue, even the resilient, recumbent bike-cummuters of Seattle have ceased to travel.

Oh we are open!

It's 6:15am and there are 10, lycra-clad travelers with coffee in hand. They aren't standing still, they're elbow deep in crabs, helping to set-up the show. Market employees walk by with puzzled looks on their faces in disbelief at how much energy these customers have and how they maybe don't realize that there is snow on the ground and a complete shutdown of a major, US city. These out of towners got their jog in early and decided to swing by and see what the fishmongers were up to, and ended up buying our book. Who wakes up at 6am to buy a book at a fish market that isn't even setup?

As much of the country freezes over and begins to snuggle up with the Today Show, the Price is Right and all the other gems of daytime TV and the hardest working appliance in the house that hallowed coffee maker, we are shoveling ice, setting up the perfect shows of shellfish, seafood and crabs, and generating the most energetic stand in the Pike Place Market.

When the other fish markets rolled in at 7, we already had packed 30+ boxes of shippers. When the other fish markets closed at 4:30 because it was "too cold", we were doing jumping jacks as Paul our UPS driver let out a sigh of relief as he saw Jeremy put on the last shippping label that read "Thursday".

Generating. Generating. Generating.

Jeremy sits in the corner and types in shipppers for 12 hours a day, then goes home and punches in more. Anders, Rector, and Sam do exercises in front of the crab show to stay warm while the last shoppers gather their holiday feasts. Yori takes a case of smoked salmon to the head and continues to work the full day battered and bruised. It's December and we are all HERE!

In this economy and this present moment, we have no laurels and no lazy boy......just the best seafood in the world and the most powerful collection of creative, conscious beings on the planet.

Please ship your stuff soon, don't wait. We're not here to "ruin Christmas" for people.

Monday, December 15, 2008

fresh vs. frozen?

Wow, finally a blog post about fish? A question of quality perhaps, or texture, or even taste. Heck, let's see if they delve deep into the ethics of freezing food....... maybe they'll discuss an environmental issue, a long running hot button issue of frozen endangered fish?


Don't take the bait, 's not a post about fresh seafood and frozen seafood. It's really a post about frozen fishmongers. Think about this; your job description includes rubber boots, ice, shovels, freezers, coolers, and you'll be working outside.

"Sign me up!"

16 rowdy, scruffy, holiday-rush-minded mongers throw their hands into the morning huddle. Dick "The Boss" sips his coffee and just says "It's cold boys, but the people are here, let's be with 'em and sell 'em fish!" Let's ship 'em fish.

Good golly it's cold in Seattle. Bundled up as much as he can in the shipping department corner, Jeremy tops out at seven layers this fine "sunny" Seattle day. "World famous baby, that's how we do it!" he says with the slightest hint of sarcasm. Not gonna sugar coat it today, it's cold.

Not gonna lie though, I'm going home to fire up my grill! I like grilled animals, and fish ain't a bad idea. I don't care how cold it is, I'll have a beer in hand as soon as I can with that fatty, flaky fantastic fish on the fire. hoo rah!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Straight on Through 'til Christmas

Stuff comes and goes. It fades in and out of popularity. You want it one day, the next you don't even remember why you bought it.

Seafood's not like that. Cocktail shrimp are comfort food. Smoked salmon goes with everything. Heck, I like Old Bay seasoning so much, I carry it in my pocket and put that stuff on my popcorn at the movies.

The point is, the end of 2008 has some people out there scared, we all get that. What we also get is the comfort of an awesome meal and the fact that everyone has to eat. Peeling prawns over the sink with mom, slurping raw oysters and Frank's hot sauce with the cousins, cracking a dungeness leg on the edge of the back porch railing. Preparing food with others is love. These are actions but at the root, you're sharing love and "breaking bread" with one another.

Every single one of us here at the the fish market believe in that and that is why we work the hours we do and work as hard as we do to provide that experience to everyone we can whether you're taking it with you or we're shipping it overnight.

The holiday rush has us all working anywhere from seven to 13 days straight to get it all done. Anders calls it "joyful controlled chaos" as he inhales dinner like a zombie on day 10.......Jaison says it's more of a "spin cycle" for his body as his fiance supports him with a bagged lunch everyday. We're moving a ton of seafood and whether it's shipping manager Jeremy with his headset in the corner sifting through paper work or Rector sailing the 30 pound wild, Alaskan salmon (we got a 35 pounder today from Sitka, AK!) over the counter, we all are going above and beyond for the holiday season. We're choosing to work our asses off and make this place busy.......cause we said so.

Bring it!
Don't know what to send? Ship Early and eat well.
Here is a page with a bunch of different shipping specials!


Away he goes...our tireless and fearless truck. He's been a graffiti canvas, a snowball target, a temporary napping spot, and of course the most dependable fish transporter there is. And he is far from broken, but tonight we saw him dragged to the doctor's office. There wasn't a dry eye in the market as our rig was lifited and dragged thru his stomping grounds. Babies were crying, women and children were gasping and shielding their eyes......but the fish still flew, oh yes!

What I'm doing now is creating a great truck.

A truck that yells "heeeyyyaahhh" all the way to the airport and back.

A truck that picks up the best fish in the world.

The driver is world class, no problems there (haha! That's me). We're more wanting a working vehicle. The Seattle airport is about 25 minutes away from our fish market and one cannot bike with salmon on his back. So what do we need? A truck, a good fish truck.

Above you see visible evidence of what we call a "breakdown", something fell out of integrity. In this case, the glorious chariot carrying the fantastically famous fish. I'm putting it out there that this is already handled, the truck is fixed. Right. Publish the breakdown and the breakthrough has already occured! Now everyone else, create that with me and the holiday rush will go off without a hitch and tomorrow we will have a truck! Heeyyyaah!

Ryan Rector, a three year driver for the fish market, and in-house meat expert Don (of Don & Joe's Meats) remove their hats for a moment of silence for our fallen team member. Dry your eyes fellas, it's already done, I can feel it!

Jeff's Back!

Ice falls in your hair, you drop your cell phone, it's loud, all you want to do is pay for the fish and get out of the madness. A bunch of pierced and tatooed guys scurry around and you all the sudden can't remember who even has your order........"Who was helping you?" one of them asks. "That one? Was it him? I can't remember now, you all just look..."

"Go ahead lady, say we all look the same!" Now you're embarassed.

Well after that snazzy lil' intro, we welcome back one of those pierced and tatooed special guys as a full time crew member. Jeff was here for four years, took a break slingin' fish somewhere else before he realized he "needed Pike Place Fish in his life."

It's a universal thing as far as we're concerned, we all need a little Pike Place in our lives.
Welcome back Jeff, now start making boxes cause you're startin at the bottom!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Pike Place Fish Family

There are commercials going around with the crab boat fishermen of "Deadliest Catch" trumpeting the products of their labor as thanksgiving treats.
"This Thanksgiving, start a new tradition," they say, "and eat crab."
"Why fight over two legs, when you can fight over eight?".

Part of me feels a real jealousy of these now celebrities. Captain Sig rode in a Navy, Blue Angel, F16 fighter jet this past summer in Seattle as the grand master of the SeaFair festivities. His brother, a long-time hardworking, Alaskan deckhand spoke on King5 News about kissing babies, shaking hands and signing pictures like he was a presidential candidate. Don't get me wrong, they work their asses off in the middle of the Bering Sea. I'm not complaining, I don't strive for this kind of notoriety.

I bring this all up because with fame, be it Discovery Channel or a $900 video from Charthouse Learning, comes a new limelight that has a whole new bag of exposure you never thought possible. Besides the body aches, calloused hands and smelly clothes, I feel a sense of kinship with these guys because we share a rock solid work ethic that is in a constant balance with the demands of being a human being with friends and family. We begin to have each other as our true and closest family. Take the cameras and videos and blogs away and we're still just Taho, Erick, Ryan, Ben, whomever. We sell fish and stay in business so we can make a difference.

With all that in mind, wednesday was a day that brought one of our own back to work. Keith, the Bear, Bish has been at home the past seven weeks nursing a broken leg. As one particularly known for his "power in brevity", the Bear was glad to be back throwing smoked salmon and a smile to his Pike Place Family.
"Good to see you Bear, how's your leg?"

"Cooking for thanksgiving?"

"Glad to be back?"
"Not sure yet, how are you?"

Some say there is magic in our orange pants and aprons (find me a man who wears overalls and doesn't smile!) Although they do keep us dry and a bit less smelly......for Bear those Grundens are keeping him the same old rock that customers have known for the past 30+ years.
Welcome back Bear....

And Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Come down to the market and throw some smoked salmon on those leftover turkey sandwiches!

Early Wednesday morning, The Bear with his brace that will follow him for the next four weeks.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Now What?

Similar to many Americans asking this question with our new president-elect, we fishmongers have been dealing with this question about ourselves. Although, this is on our main website, I thought I'd put it here to be timely I guess. We all need the reminders right?
Recently, we realized that we’d accomplished our vision to become world famous. Once we committed to our vision, things seemed to kind of naturally open up and show us the way and provide opportunities to fulfill our vision. We kept stepping into the opportunities, and we did it - we became world famous! But then we had a problem because once you’ve fulfilled a vision, you have to either sit around, rest on your laurels, get fat-headed and arrogant, or you generate a bigger vision.

So, we asked ourselves, ‘Now what?’ We began to wonder. And we created a new vision. Now our vision is ‘World Peace, an idea whose time has come.’ How are we going to accomplish this? We don’t know fully yet. It will unfold as we go…When you take a stand and commit to something, it’s amazing how the world seems to line up with your commitment and all the right events seem to just happen…”

For now, it's on our hats and I know for me, it's a whole new beast when you literally see it on our gear.
World Peace, peace through fish, world famous with a purpose. All sounds good to me!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

We dress up too!

The day started with Mike emerging from back room duties dressed as our fearless leader Dicky. We just told him to remember imitation is the highest form of flattery right? The look, the speech, the mannerisms....it was all dead on. The day continued with vegetables, politicians, and even people borrowing our Grundens to be fishmongers! Have a look at our history with costumes!

Sam, Erik, Ben, Anders, Dicky and Johnny even got in the halloween spirit, no flying fish needed!

"rough day" for Anders as you can see

Larry, our UPS contact, ditched the suit and tie and went on the front lines!


Although, he insists it's not a "costume", Scott pitches fish just like World series MVP Cole Hamels from the Phillies!

Notice the rubber, Xtra Tuff boots on this Sarah Palin!

And I think this guy is wearing a lifetime's supply of plastic bags!? There are hands coming outta somewhere.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Preserving the freshness

We still read newspapers right? We still throw them out, we still cut out important articles, and yes we homeless types still sleep in them. Do we wrap our fish in them simply to recycle? Come on, there has to be more history than that.

One possibility could be mummification......yup! The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology tells us complete vertebral columns in certain species of fish have been perfectly preserved when wrapped in linen or Ptolemaic styles of papyrus (altough not spreading gossip of King Tut's newest affair, an ancient form of newspaper all the same). Fish were believed to have been in an "excellent state of preservation" when wrapped in linens.

Another "credible website on fish" (kidding) suggests an almost hygienic quality to our old headlines. Fish and chips have been served in newspaper to heighten the aroma and keep them um......sanitary. The article continues saying that "A supporting point to this would be that midwives / the emergency services often suggest the use of newspaper when delivering a baby in an emergency if nothing else is available." hmmm....

ANYWAY.....Johnny, the Bear, Sam and all the other veterans around here can remember how big of a role newspaper has always played for us at Pike Place Fish. We can wrap our fish and preserve the freshness for the two minute stroll to someone's apartment or for two days as the newspaper lined box jumps from hand dolly, to truck, to plane, to doorstep.

Connected with the fabled tradition at Pike Place of wrapping fish in yesterday's news is a relationship with Primeau Place Senior Housing. Nestled in the heart of the Capitol Hill neighborhood just up the street from downtown Seattle, Primeau hosts Henry Green and his hard-working crew of newspaper rolling residents. With their knot tying, nimble fingers and pride for rolling only black and white papers ("the traditional way of wrapping fish"), this crew has been providing this invaluable service to the boys of Pike Place for over 15 years.

In a world where authenticity is the buzzword of all buzzwords, I was taken aback by how genuine and real the newspaper relationship was for us. I escape the traffic and buses of downtown and now maneuver our Ford F450 diesel truck through densely wooded and windy neighborhood streets. After locating Primeau, I meet up with Henry whose first words were "What's this I hear about Bear breaking his leg?!" I could tell this guy had known us for a long time and was ready to hit the ground talking. He was always in around the market in his younger days chewin the fat with Keith "the bear" Bish and more recently, he had been in and out of chemo treatment while always waiting to greet the Pike Place Fish truck as it rolled up to collect Henry's hard work.
After introducing myself as a temporary fill-in for Bear behind the wheels, Henry and Kit showed me the basement utility storage room containing over 600 pounds of quality newspaper rolls. Each one is hand tied and color free. Loading each one into their shopping cart, I roll it up the street in my Extra Tuff rubber boots before throwing them into the back of the truck.

At 18 cents per pound, I write the check and am on my way. We get recycled paper to insulate the freshness of our seafood, and Primeau gets some funds for community dinners and trips that make their facility the kind of place it is to live. Being part of the final newspaper pickup from Primeau meant a lot to me for sure and I hope our relationship with them has helped to make a difference as well.

Speaking for Primeau, Kit Bryson says "We have enjoyed the relationship and I think both parties have benefited from knowing each other".


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Everybody has to Eat!

Leaving the Seahawks in 2008 as their all-time leading rusher with 9,429 yards and 100 touchdowns, Shaun Alexander has been a staple for the rainy city. From Kentucky's "Mr. Football", a red-shirted year at Alabama, NFL awards, playoffs, superbowls and unfortunately injuries, Alexander has always had the 12th man as part of his being.

Not only is he a high profile athlete, but has always been a loyal Pike Place Fish customer. We can't tell you how gracious we are as a company and as individuals for the tourist presence, but sometimes it's the locals who can make big differences for us as Seattle residents.

I know Shaun had his share of salmon and crab over the years but the one who really reaped the benefits of his fish market patronage is his mother in Kentucky.
"He ships fish to his mom all the time, I think it's awesome when he comes down to the market," says shipping manager Jeremy.

Always rolling in style on Autumn Sundays by Qwest Field, eight year fishmonger Anders says "I'm a season ticket holder man, it's rad to see him behind the counter. And not just hangin' out, he's buying fish!"

For me and my athlete starcrossings at 86 Pike Place, I found myself screaming about the Seahawks, then catching a halibut draped in a New Orleans Saints jersey that I quickly spiked on the ground, piled on top of and then shredded. I then realized it was not only the jersey of Saints Quarterback Drew Brees that I shredded, but Brees himself actually watching me from the crowd and jokingly shaking his head. I'm not one to offend men bigger than me, so I graciously shook his hand, asked for an autograph.........and sheepishly tell my story while not mentioning the hawks loss the next day.

Either way, I know we all appreciate what Shaun Alexander has given Seattle and to see him go gives us a bit of sadness. Turns out athletes make a bit of money too, so we like selling them fish when we can. Good luck Shaun wherever football or life takes you, call us when your mom runs out again!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Step Farther

Nothin' to it but to do it!
~Erik Espinoza

Erik "the Spaniard" has seen and experienced a lot of stuff here at Pike Place Market in Seattle. When he's not throwing fish or going through people's shopping bags while they shuffle by our fish market, he's always nearby no matter what. He'll be chatting with people about organic produce at the Alvarez Farms booth or in this particular instance, sharing a choice phrase on how he came to make his job enjoyable.

I post this phrase and these pictures because I was blown away by one man's initiative and assertiveness to really find out why that "how to have fun at work" FISH video was so energizing. We get people everyday telling us they've seen it, they've had to watch it, they want copies, etc.. but for this particular family therapist and business owner, he had to find out for himself. The real kicker though was that as we all rolled into the corner of First Avenue and Pike Street on one particular morning, Rich had a shovel in hand and was getting the clams and mussels ready for a day on the display. We huddled up and talked about what our day was like and how we were going to balance our register, keep the hallways clear so people could walk by, and very simply generate the energy possible for a fun and effective day. As we talked, Sam raised his hand and said "Uh, wait wait, who's this guy?" pointing to the already sweating gentleman with a shovel in hand.
Rich spoke up, "I was here yesterday and Ryan told me to really get the full experience and show up at 6:30! I use you guys in my office and the philosophy is all well and good but I had a few days here in Seattle so I wanted to find out for myself".
As the displays filled and the broom was put to work for fine tuning of the area, Rich headed off back to his family to rest from the early wakeup. Rich returned with his wife and young daughter to express his gratitude for such an exciting morning.

Although people have set up the shop with us before by using BizFutures consulting (probably the best way), and some people have even started working here by simply showing up (myself included), Rich really set me back by going ahead and creating an experience for himself. Some of the best things in life, whether they're toys, experiences, jobs, whatever, are made possible by going after them. They may be difficult and they won't be handed to you but they can be completely worth it. Thanks Rich for reminding us of this and how everyone can create great things for themselves if they really want. From everyone on the crew, thanks you for sending us the pictures with individually labled messages!! We love hearing from people about their time at the fish market!

You've definitely made a difference for the Pike Place Fish crew and we hope you can translate the joy and fun you had here into your office environment.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Sorting the stuff.......from the stuff

Cigarettes light up as a parade of four or five fishmongers pour out onto S. King Street in the international district south of downtown Seattle. The sun is finally beginning to go down creating a pink and orange hue over the Olympic mountains visible behind the cranes and outline of Qwest Field on a cool July night.

The energy on the street is different than it was two hours prior. We have recommitted, recreated, and are ready to take on anything. We have cleaned out the fishbowl once again......like we did two weeks ago......and like we will probably do again.
As far as I can tell, nothing in the world is a destination but rather a journey. Successful journeys require maintenance and that's what we do. We individually make sure we're committed to the journey of a world famous fish market that makes a difference for everyone we can.

Now a pack of hard-working, burly, and sometimes smelly, fishmongers smoking on the street may strike you as a bit intimidating. If you look again, you'll see the crowds are gone, the cameras are nowhere to be seen and all the fishes have been put to bed. What's left is the thickest paint of emotions covering the walls of that little Chinese restaurant where we all have met every two weeks for the past 10 years. Before cocktails or the drive home after 15 or 16 hour days on these meeting nights, we pass around steamed rice and tea talking about what's present and what's missing. What are the conversations going around? What are the choices we need to make?
If you think it's all about fish, you're sadly mistaken. We are present, we are intentional and we do our best to be supportive. Tears, anger, laughter, sadness, the list goes on but what really matters is that we all care enough to sit down and recommit to making this place great, recommit to the vision.

This is my blog entry for a meeting night and the high that I ride until 12:28am on a weeknight. Everyday is great at PPF, but fridays after meetings are really something special.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Created From Nothing

John Yokoyama, owner of Pike Place Fish: "Scotty, it took me a long time to warm up to the internet, and I still don't quite get it all, but if this "blog"will help us tell the world who we are and what we do, why not!"

Seriously, did you ever think a bunch of guys who work in rubber boots, have hands of sand paper and generate more chiropractic paperwork than the hunchback of Notre Dame would begin a blog!?

We thought rather than barraging your email boxes with our ramblings, we'd put it out there to the world and see what sticks. Our plan is to post evidence of what we're generating and creating for ourselves here at Pike Place Fish. We're world famous because of our commitment to creating energy from nothing and this blog will show you how. We're consistently amazed at how that shows up on a daily basis at 86 Pike Place and we wanted you all to see it too.
Be prepared for pictures, updates on the fishes, and who knows what else. We sure as heck don't know but happy to be taking Pike Place Fish to new places everyday.

Now to tell you the truth, this is more time in front of a computer than any of us are willing to devote right now, so thanks for reading the intro and we hope you continue to return and read up on us. The July BBQs are calling which means grills in need of salmon and picnic tables in need of crabs so call us or stop by to get the best summer cookout supplies that the Northwest has to offer! Heeeeyyyyaaaah!