Pike Place Fish Market

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Coordinates: 47°36′33.93″N 122°20′30.12″W / 47.6094250°N 122.3417000°W / 47.6094250; -122.3417000

Pike Place Fish Market
Headquarters86 Pike Place
Seattle, Washington, U.S.
OwnersJaison Scott, Ryan Reese, Samuel Samson, Anders Miller
Pike Place Fish Market

Pike Place Fish Market is an open-air fish market at Pike Place Market in Seattle, Washington, United States, located at the corner of Pike Street and Pike Place. Founded in 1930, it is known for its tradition of fishmongers throwing the fish purchased by customers prior to wrapping it.[1] The fish market was near to bankruptcy in 1986, but after the introduction of new practices such as the fish throwing, games, and customer performances, it received significant exposure in national media and on television shows. Pike Place Fish Market is today a world-famous tourist destination, attracting up to 10,000 daily visitors.[2][3]


The Pike Place Fish Market was purchased in 1965 by John Yokoyama, a former employee of the fish market, who bought the store to make enough money on an owner's salary to afford the car payments on his new Buick Riviera.[4] Initially, Pike Place Fish Market was unknown outside of the Seattle area, but Yokoyama and his staff decided to change that in a meeting with a business coach in 1986.[2] Prior to the meeting, the Pike Place Fish Market was near to bankruptcy, and the consultant, Jim Bergquist, was helping them to conceive of ways to save the business.[2] A fish market employee at the meeting suggested that they not only save the business, but make it "world famous", with the ideas for the business' flying and thrown fish, games with customers, and staff attitudes of always enjoying their work, so that customers would as well.[2] In an interview, Yokoyama stated, "We took a stand that we were going to become world famous. We just said it and it became so."[5]

The bronze piggy bank sculpture nicknamed "Rachel", a popular symbol of the market, was created by Whidbey Island sculptor Georgia Gerber in 1986. It raises approximately $10,000 per year in donations for housing and services in low income areas.[6]

Four years later, in 1990, Ted Turner's Goodwill Games were held in Seattle. News crews at the Pike Place Market discovered the fish market and its performances with customers, and they filmed them. Soon afterwards, the fish market appeared on Good Morning America, leading to the business and its employees being filmed by various film crews, and being featured in numerous magazines.

Today, the fishmongers at Pike Place Fish Market perform in front of up to 10,000 visitors a day during the summer tourist season. Another popular feature of the Fish Market is the monkfish, which sometimes is made to "snap" at customers by use of a hidden line.[2] The success of the business has been attributed to its human resources and employee attitudes.[5] The Fish Market's employees are known to give motivational speeches at businesses, civic groups and schools, and have been featured in various motivational books.[2][7][8]

In 1991, CNN named the Pike Place Fish Market as one of the three most fun places to work in America.[8] It was bought by four of its former employees in 2018.[9]

Fish throwing[edit]

A salmon in flight

The Pike Place Fish Market is widely known for its custom of hurling customers' orders across the shopping area. A typical routine will involve a customer ordering a fish; the fishmongers in orange rubber overalls and boots will call 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 to be wrapped.[8] The repeated shouting of fish orders started out as a prank on one employee, but became a tradition as the display was enjoyed by customers.[10] When at work, the fish market's staff continually yell to each other and chant in unison while throwing ordered fish.[11] Occasionally they will throw a foam fish into the crowd to scare bystanders, or select a customer from the crowds to participate in the fish toss.[12] The market displays a sign in the general area which reads "Caution: Low Flying Fish".[13]

Films, books and popular culture[edit]

Taho, longtime employee, staffing the counter

In 1998, the Pike Place Fish Market was the subject of a documentary film and accompanying book, FISH! Philosophy.[5] The Pike Place Fish Market has also been the setting for several best-selling corporate training videos, the aforementioned FISH!, and also FISH!Sticks, which have been used by firms such as Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Sprint Nextel, Southwest Airlines, Sainsbury's, Saturn, and Scottish and Southern Energy, for employee training.[10] The Pike Place Fish Market has been featured in a variety of television shows and commercials. These include a Spike Lee Levis jeans commercial; MTV's The Real World; NBC's Frasier, and ABC's Good Morning America.[8] In films, they have appeared in Free Willy.[10] Reference to the Pike Place Fish Market is also made by American hip hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis in their 2015 single "Downtown" featuring Eric Nally, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee and Grandmaster Caz.


  1. ^ "Do you provide world-class service?". Reliable Plant Magazine. Noria. 2008. Retrieved 2007-05-27.[dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Caution: flying fish ahead: the 2006 general session promises insights, smiles and scales". Parks & Recreation. National Recreation and Park Association. 2006-09-01. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  3. ^ "Delicious ways to explore Seattle's foodie paradise". The San Diego Union-Tribune. October 17, 2010. Archived from the original on January 16, 2013. Retrieved December 3, 2012.
  4. ^ "Our Humble Beginnings". Pike Place Fish Market. Archived from the original on January 23, 2008. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  5. ^ a b c "HR philosophy goes fishing for positive work attitudes". Seattle Times. 2008. Archived from the original on July 8, 2011. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  6. ^ The Origins of Pike Place Market's Famous Pig Archived 2021-10-25 at the Wayback Machine, Seattle Magazine, July 2016
  7. ^ Fish, Peter (2007-06-01). "Seattle to market". Sunset. Sunset Publishing Corp. Retrieved 2007-05-27.[dead link]
  8. ^ a b c d Bauman, Margaret (2006-11-26). "Good times means good business at Pike Place". Alaska Journal of Commerce. Archived from the original on January 8, 2009. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  9. ^ "'It's surreal': Seattle's Pike Place Fish Market sold to fish-throwing employees". The Seattle Times. 2018-07-20. Archived from the original on 2018-07-20. Retrieved 2018-07-21.
  10. ^ a b c Lelyveld, Nita (2000-08-04). "Pike Place fishmongers showing up as examples of fun at work". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  11. ^ Pfeiffer, Cristina (2006-03-22). "Seattle highlights". The Age. Melbourne. Archived from the original on 2023-02-05. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  12. ^ "Fishy tale could cause indigestion". Europe Intelligence Wire. Financial Times Ltd. 2005-11-08. Archived from the original on 2011-05-22. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  13. ^ Landro, Laura (2006-08-19). "How I Got Hooked on Seattle". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 2022-10-20. Retrieved 2007-05-27.

Further reading[edit]

  • When Fish Fly: Lessons for Creating a Vital and Energized Workplace — From the Word Famous Pike Place Fish Market, Yokoyama, John and Joseph Michelli. New York: Hyperion, 2004.
  • "Catch: A Fishmonger's Guide to Greatness", Crother, Cyndi and the crew of Pike Place Fish. Berrett-Koehler Publishers (January 1, 2005)

External links[edit]