Skip to main content

You make this possible. Support our independent, nonprofit newsroom today.

Give Now

Mutual Fish, Seattle's go-to seafood market, to close after 77 years

A beloved Seattle fish market will close its doors permanently next week. After nearly 77 years, owners of Mutual Fish in Rainier Valley quietly announced their retirement on Facebook over Labor Day weekend.

Since then, the store has been flooded with phone calls from old friends and businesses. Owner Harry Yoshimura said he’s amazed by the response.

caption: Mutual Fish Co. owner hugs a customer in front of the business.
Enlarge Icon
1 of 2 Mutual Fish Co. owner hugs a customer in front of the business.
KUOW/ Juan Pablo Chiquiza

“It actually makes you feel good, and makes you feel bad at the same time that you’re doing this,” he said.

Yoshimura, 80, and his son Kevin have been running Mutual Fish. They’ve been talking about retiring for the past few months. The hours are long, especially during the holidays.

"I’m getting on in age, so it gets harder and harder,” he said.

Yoshimura has been in the fish business most of his life. His father, Dick Yoshimura, started the business in 1947. Back in the day, Harry went to the waterfront for the day’s catch.

“Boats would come in, there were numerous fish houses, and you could go in there and pick it off the boat.”

caption: Mutual Fish Co. worker during the business last week.
Enlarge Icon
1 of 2 Mutual Fish Co. worker during the business last week.
KUOW/ Juan Pablo Chiquiza

Yoshimura said his father sought out the best quality seafood, whether it was salmon, tuna, or sole. Yoshimura recalled once not being able to find good local tuna. But his friends in Hawaii, who ran the fish auction there, had some. That’s when Mutual Fish started flying in fish from California, Hawaii, and Alaska.

“If he wouldn’t eat it, he wouldn’t sell it,” said Yoshimura.

Local chefs soon caught on. One rising chef, Tom Douglas, sourced his seafood from Mutual Fish for his restaurants. In his 2001 cookbook "Tom Douglas’ Seattle Kitchen," Douglas recalls seeing firsthand how the fish is handled with care and respect. Those visits also provided menu ideas.

“When Harry says 'buy,' I buy. When Harry says, 'Cook it this way,' we argue a bit, and then I cook it his way. At Dahlia Lounge , every day we feature a Harry Yoshimura’s Fish Selection.”

Mutual Fish may soon be gone, but the standards instilled by the Yoshimura family will live on. Some longtime employees have started their own seafood business.

Ken Hewitt opened Kuzma’s Fish Market in Edmonds six years ago. He said his 15 years at Mutual Fish was like being at the college for fishmongers. He learned basic fish skills at his grandmother’s fish market in West Seattle. But working with Dick Yoshimura, he said, notched up his technique and his appreciation for different fish varieties, including how to handle salmon properly.

“Always two hands, never grab by the head or dangle by the tail,” said Hewitt. “He would always say, ’handle fish like a baby.’”

Why you can trust KUOW