Business Tales of Success
Pike Place Fish Market shows how it’s done
The Pike Place Fish Market, founded in 1930, is an open air fish market located in Seattle, Washington’s Pike Place Market, at the corner of Pike Street and Pike Place. It is known for their tradition of fishmongers throwing fish that customers have purchased, before they are wrapped.
After nearing bankruptcy in 1986, the fish market owner and employees decided to become “world famous”, changing their way of doing business by introducing their flying fish, games, and customer performances. Four years later, they were featured repeatedly in the national media and television shows. The store is now a popular tourist destination in Seattle, attracting up to 10,000 daily visitors, and is often billed as world-famous.
The Pike Place Fish Market is best known for their habit of hurling customers’ orders across the shopping area. A typical routine will involve a customer ordering a fish, with their fishmongers in orange rubber overalls and boots calling out the order, which is loudly shouted back by all the other staff, at which point the original fishmonger will throw the customer’s fish behind the counter for wrapping. Initially, the shouted repeating of the ordered fish began as a prank on one employee, but was enjoyed by customers, so it became a tradition. While working, the staff continually yell to each other and chant in unison while they throw ordered fish. At times, the fish market staff will throw a foam fish into the crowd to scare bystanders, or select a customer from the crowds to participate in the fish toss. Above the areas in which they throw fish, the market hangs a sign that reads, “Caution: Low Flying Fish”.