by Ronnie Estoque
Since 1947, the Yoshimura family has operated Mutual Fish Company, a retail and wholesale seafood market based in Seattle that in more than 75 years built a loyal and steady clientele who are saddened by the loss of a South End staple.
Initially, the business was located at 14th Avenue and East Yesler Way, and in 1965, Dick Yoshimura moved the business to the 2335 Rainier Ave. S. location that has been a mainstay in the community ever since.
Dick’s son, Harry, and grandson, Kevin, have been running Mutual Fish, and on Sept. 16, they will be retiring and closing their doors to customers after years of providing top-quality, fresh seafood. According to Harry Yoshimura, the upcoming Christmas and New Year’s will be the first time he has celebrated the holidays without working since he was 13 years old.
“What we’re finding out is there’s a lot of great people that are coming in and congratulating us,” said Harry, 80. “Some are happy, and some are sad that we’re leaving. We’re really grateful for those people, because a lot of them have been coming here for over 40 years.” Harry says Mutual Fish has always maintained a business model that focuses on finding the freshest seafood for its customers.
A July 11, 2012, The Seattle Times obituary said founder Dick Yoshimura emigrated at 15 to the United States and worked for fish companies on the Alaskan Way waterfront. He was among the 125,000 people of Japanese ancestry imprisoned in U.S. concentration camps during WWII. He was released after three years of imprisonment, and his reputation for hard work enabled him to quickly find work on the waterfront.
The Yoshimura family was able to develop and foster flourishing relationships with global suppliers, and they’re known by their customer base for their sashimi, kippered salmon, and tuna.
“We try to source our good salmon in places up in Alaska and all over. … We had fish coming in from the East Coast, Alaska, the West Coast, Hawai‘i, and all over,” Harry said. “All the nice people that have shopped here and, you know, makes you feel good, good that they’re coming in and congratulating us.”
Since announcing the closure of the market, customers have been flocking to express their appreciation for the Yoshimura family. A scroll through the company’s Facebook page reveals plenty of photos of customers coming in to say goodbye and comments revealing how much Mutual Fish was part of the fabric of so many families’ holiday celebrations.
When asked about what he had planned for retirement, Harry said, “Maybe just to go enjoy life a little bit more and whatnot, and maybe even find a part-time job someplace.”
“It’s a family business, and you know, people were very respectful of my father before he passed,” Harry said. “And we’re even getting some people that he serviced saying, ‘Thank you.’”
Ronnie Estoque is a South Seattle-based freelance photographer and videographer. You can keep up with his work by checking out his website.
📸 Featured Image: A customer hugs Harry Yoshimura as word spreads that South End’s Mutual Fish is closing after decades in business on Rainier Avenue. (Photo: Ronnie Estoque)
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