Friday, July 12, 2013

Tompkins Square Bagels owner explores opening a fish market on First Avenue


[Photo by Blue Glass]

After learning that the former Something Sweet space on First Avenue is for rent, Tompkins Square Bagels owner Christopher Pugliese has expressed interest in opening a fish market here at the corner of East 11th Street.

"I wish I had some fancy elaborate business plan to lay out, but basically I just want to sell fish on First Avenue," he said.

But this isn't exactly some whim. Pugliese has been thinking about such an idea for awhile. He explored a fish/cheese/meat market concept for the former Diablo Royale Este next door to his shop on Avenue A... though that plan didn't work with the landlord, who wants to keep a liquor license on the premises. (Pugliese said any market concept would remain alcohol free.)

"I think it would be great because right now people have to walk all the way to Whole Foods to get a halfway decent piece of fish," he said. "When they do this, they probably buy other goods there too instead of spending money at Commodities, Russo's or Veniero's. Best case scenario, this corner of First Avenue turns into a kind of food shopping hub."

Previous ideas for a fishmonger in the neighborhood were fairly well-received.

However, Pugliese has been met with some resistance.

"Some of my friends I've told think it's nuts to try this and even the landlord of the space made it a point to tell me, 'Listen kid, nobody in the East Village cooks,'" Pugliese said. "I think they're wrong. I think this is yet another hole in the neighborhood that needs to be filled."

And this hasn't been the first time people weren't into his ideas.

"I may not get this space. I had the idea for [Tompkins Square Bagels] for many years before I actually got it opened. I had to see a lot of landlords. If a fish market doesn't happen here, then I'll just keep trying."

Previously on EV Grieve:
Tompkins Square Bagels turns 1

45 comments:

Gojira said...

This would be GREAT. I'd be there on opening day and pretty much every day after that. Because amazingly enough, I cook. (And if people in the EV don't turn on a stove, why all the fancy upscale kitchens installed in the luxe apts. being built?)

Anonymous said...

Fish and biscuits!

Anonymous said...

This would be FANTASTIC! I used to love the fish market that used to be on 1st ave near 8th St. It would be great to be able to pick up a piece of fish on the way home from work.

Anonymous said...

I cook seven days a week and would welcome a fish market. Still miss the one that was on First years ago...

Anonymous said...

While I would certainly buy fish there, on those occasions when I need to buy fish, my inner doubter wonders if this venture will succeed. Why did the previous fish market close? Will the prices be less than Trader Joe's or Fairway?
I know this is a long way off -- some scaffolding will probably go and and come down before it opens -- but I'm just wondering. This seems like a low-return business.

Anonymous said...

This is the sort of 'niche' idea the two owners from Empire Biscuits would never have come up with.

Mr. Pugliese knows what's wanted and needed and he will succeed as soon as he gets a shop space.

As soon as I read the first couple of lines in this post I thought, 'Brilliant! Of course! How simple yet so on the money'.

Signed,
Not a Shill (don't know Christopher Pugliese, have never shopped at TSB and am vegetarian and don't eat fish)

John M said...

Between moving the Fulton Fish Market up to the Bronx--making it harder for fish store owners downtown--and the opening of Whole Foods, we lost all of the neighborhood fish markets over several years. We used to cook a lot more when it was easy to pick up some fish on the way home. This would be great. Especially if the fish is as good as his bagels.

VH McKenzie said...

We cook 7 days a week, too and are tired of shlepping to Chinatown for decent and affordable fish.

There used to be a meat and fish market on A near 13 Street -- it was perfection and would love to have such back in the 'hood.

Go for it Chris, good luck!!!

Anonymous said...

This is a great idea, and I know lots of people in the East Village who cook at home! I like to go out to eat but not every night. Good luck with this project!

Shawn G. Chittle said...

Whatever Chris does will be successful. He has the touch.

Dear Landlord Kushner, who "wants to keep a liquor license in 165 Ave A"

Thanks, because no one is gonna pay your $18,000 rent. It's great having a nice quiet EMPTY space on my block.

9:39 am said...

A fish market closes in the evening. It's not open 24 hours to serve and attract the woo and the drunk bros and the vocal fry crowds. It doesn't have a CFO or executive chef. It serves the neighborhood. It ain't about the owner; it's about the community.

However, to be a devil's advocate, the new residents will not be too keen with a fish market. As mentioned, they hardly cook. They'd rather have something delivered to them via Fresh Direct. If they do cook, they'd rather get their fish at shiny trendy places where the "beautiful" people shop -- so that they can rub elbows with them or feel like one of them -- such as Whole Foods and Union Market. They have something against "mom and pop shops", which arises their envy, reminding them of the "bad object" parents of their infancy. Kickstarter is not involved in raising funds with this proposed fish market (they need to get that high five from the owner by giving $10). Fro-yos and fish don't go well with each other. Unless of course someone will start that trend and make it flavor or a trend. The foodies and the facial hair obsessed faux hipster farmers would rather fish or farm their own fish. And all these condos with state-of-the art kitchens, it's all for show to bed the ladies: "Indeed, while Norton has a stunning state-of-the-art kitchen, he never sets foot in it to actually cook. He even keeps clothes in the oven." http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/welcome_ladies_5l6R0KHXlQYCcwkanSM2UJ

Hope this opens and good luck, regardless.

marjorie said...

i cook! i want a fish market!

another advantage to a small market is that the people working at whole foods don't always know what they're selling you or whether it's good. i'd love to think at a neighborhood store the counterperson would steer me toward what was freshest and best that day.

Anonymous said...

"It ain't about the owner; it's about the community."? I think the owner would disagree with you.

10:32 am said...

@ 10:18 AM, to be clear, unlike that biscuit place where it's all about the owners, this fish market won't be all about the owner. Then again, this fish market won't be all about you, thus that's the comment you chose to surmise.

Anonymous said...

This would be awesome! The reason I'm an East Villager who DOESN'T cook as often as she is capable of/wants to is because of the lack of good healthy buying options (notably fish) nearby. Though I know Whole Foods is good quality, it's a trek, Union Square makes me crazy, the lines are nuts and I'm really not interested in buying anything else there ($$$). Would love to have nearby access to fresh fish.

Anonymous said...

Dear 9:39am,

I cook 5-7 days a week and I use Fresh Direct all the time...it's grocery shipments, not delivery (maybe you are thinking Seamless or Delivery.com...if so, spot on).

I use FD because Associated just doesn't cut it, unless I'm just missing an item for a recipe or two. I'll go to Commodities for some produce when needed (the rest I find over-priced there). Union Market is a bit of a hike, but if I want to find a good cut or meat or fish I've been going there (also the great cheese selection). I like to cook Japanese food a lot so I'll hit Sunrise Mart a good deal. But FD is pretty helpful in filling the hole for regular deliveries of produce/fish/meats/groceries. I just like that you can see what they have, know they have it available, and can get it regularly, and it's fair-priced.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:18 here again...I should also maybe mention my main point...I would very much welcome the fish market, as I would much rather go somewhere convenient and select something with my own eyes, not to mention the actual experience of shopping, which is great when doing so in a quality environment like a fish shop or butcher.

And yes, this would make me more likely to grab something from Commodities to make with it!

11:02 am said...

at 10:18 AM, It ain't? Enjoy the biscuits.

Sarah Dain said...

This would be great!! We recently moved to the EV and were disappointed that the only fresh fish option nearby is whole foods.

Anonymous said...

Bagel guy for mayor !

I would definitely go there once a week. The new place on 11th & C has good meat & for salmon & shrimp is OK in a pinch but a fish place would be a welcome change.

Big Brother said...

I hope the Biscuits are taking note. Do you see the enthusiasm and need for a traditional business? Fish. Not fish in a biscuit. Not fish on a stick. Not fro-fish. Just fish. What a concept! No PHD or Kickstarer required! Chris has roots in the community, knows his neighborhood and knows what it needs. I wish him the best of luck!

olympiasepiriot said...

I really miss the fish market that was where Ippin is now (next door to Paquitos). I miss it when it was run by a (possibly Ukrainian) father and son and I miss the version that existed when they sold the business. The first incarnation made fried fish to take away if you weren't buying something to cook yourself. The second incarnation expanded the "support products"...so I could get big containers of Old Bay Seasoning.

Now, my fish-buying options are:
1) The 6th Street Community Center CSA does bulk buys of wild-caught fish from Alaska. It is frozen and shipped frozen and can be bought from them http://www.sixthstreetcenter.org/csa/ The veggie/fruit CSA is, for me, a great deal. The fish is excellent. However, it isn't a limitless selection and it isn't locally caught. So, that brings me to
2) The fish guy at the Greenmarket along Avenue A & 7th Street on Sundays. I bought delicious porgies and scallops from him last Sunday. And, then, there's
3) The fish stall at Essex St. Market. I like that I can also buy my Old Bay there. I have gotten good fish from them, too. Also, they are a helluva lot more convenient for me than Whole Paycheck since I live close to A and can take an M14A straight down and back while getting to Whole Foods requires me braving the Union Square congestion or walking to Houston and 2nd.

Still, buying fish, though, you have to know what you want and how to judge a good fish. I'd love a fish market in the neighborhood. That corner would be a good location.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 10:56
"the actual experience of shopping" for fish?! Ha ha ha!

Times Article on Mislabeling Fish said...

The Times ran an article this past December on fish mislabeling.
- 94% of fish sold as white tuna was not tuna.
- 13 types of fish, including tilapia and tilefish, were falsely identified as red snapper. Tilefish contains such high mercury levels that the federal FDA advises women who are pregnant or nursing and young children not to eat it.
National supermarket chains had the best record for accuracy in seafood labeling.

Crazy Eddie said...

Re questions bought up here and at the Grieve FB account, the meat/fish market that was once on First and 13th (the current location of HW Hardware) was called Victor's. It is sorely missed, go TSB and good luck.

Jill said...

Union Market has been selling a lot of fish and friends who shop there say the prices are decent and the quality excellent. The northern part of East Village could certainy support a fish market, especially knowing that they will soon be building 2 new 100+ apartment buildings right here, more people with fancy kitchens will need some fancy fish for sure. That small space on the corner seems a great spot for this type of venture.

Big Brother said...

Victor's was the best! We shopped there 3-4 times a week. They had really good prices for lobsters!

Anonymous said...

12:28, I think you are referring to an article where restaurants (mostly sushi) were mislabeling the fish.

Are you implying that the owner of TSB will also be mislabeling his fish and trying to cheat and potentially poison his customers?

What was your point then?

Anonymous said...

I liek the tompkins square farmers market on sundays for my fish. I wish it was available more than just sundays, but alas, it is not.

I'd go to the bagel's fish at least once a week.

Anonymous said...

Someone please post the name & address of the agent handling these space. We shoudl all write letters to them saying we would support a fish store. EMails are fine but hand delivered letters from a local resident is better.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 12:!7
"the actual experience of shopping" for fish?! Ha ha ha!"

Yeah, I botched the post a little, I was 10:53 and 10:56, those posts were related. Meaning that if my option is ordering from FD for a good piece or walking down to union market, I would rather go to a local shop that is a specialized fish market and knows intimately about the wares it sells and will discuss what's there with you, what's good, etc. as opposed to a chain market experience.

Study Cited by the NY Times said...

Anonymous 1:00 -- "Samples were collected from three types of retail facilities: 89 from grocery stores, 28 from restaurants, and 25 from sushi venues."
Do I think a business owner will act like a business owner? Yes, I do.

Anonymous said...

I would certainly check out a specialty fish market for special occasions but I've found that the Union Market fish counter had incredibly good quality and the guy who works there most of the time (bearded, wish I knew his name) is incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. Prices are comparable to WF. But I'm in the southern part of Alphabet City so it may be less convenient for those closer to 14th St.

Ken from Ken's Kitchen said...

I remember when the guys had the meat market on 1st Ave /13th St and a fish monger was across the street, and then later when Jimmy and Mike combined the fish/meat markets into one on the NE corner of 1st/13th. At the same time, there were two Polish butchers down the Ave. One of them was Kurowycky's who couldn't even make a go of it and they owned the building.

Sadly, I think the landlord is right, which makes life difficult for guys like me who love to cook and do it just about every night of the week.

vzabuser said...

If you didn't like fish, you just walked to Kurowycky's for a Kielbasa.

Anonymous said...

As one of the residents on 11th street, I would be glad to have the addition of place to buy fresh fish and promise to frequent the store.

Anonymous said...

the freshest fish you can buy is from Sunday farmers mkt at Tompkins Square park. People don't seem to know about this availabiity of the freshest produce and fish, This also supports local fishers. Many people also shop for fish at Sat. farmers mkt at Union Square.
The former fish markets on First ave didn't have this competition. Much of Victor's fish was not local and not so fresh.

jose garcia said...

I'll buy fish too. Still miss having a local shop for fresh fish. Whole foods a poor second.

Michael said...

Personally speaking, i think the fish quality in NYC stores, from Whole Foods all the way to the fish markets is not very high.

The only two exceptions i know of to this rule are the Lobster Place in Chelsea Market, simply fantastic even though a bit over-priced, and Sunshine market, that has some good raw fish to make tuna or sea urchin sashimi at home.

While I enjoy Union Market for veggies, meat, cold cuts, etc. I just can't get to into their fish, it just doesn't look that fresh.

So I'm all for a fish market that would be just a few blocks from my place, but I would only go there if it was of exceptional quality, with an array of Sashimi grade varieties. Luckily, there is the Lobster Place at Chelsea Market (which is always super-packed of both locals and tourists btw) that offers that benchmark of quality that i think needs to be replicated if a fish market were to open around these parts.



Jill said...

Michael, you seem to have very high fish standards, willing toravel far and wide for the perfect fish, but for the rest of us, I'm certain this fish store would be a dream come true.

Trixie said...

I would love to have a fish market back in the neighborhood, but I'm afraid that the way things go around here, I wouldn't be able to afford it. In the meantime though, it's really not that far a walk to Chinatown. If you head straight down Avenue A to where the Chinese businesses start, and then head just a little west, there are plenty of affordable stores with the freshest fish you can get.

Michael said...

Jill, it would be a dream come true for me too as I love fish/sea creatures just as much as I love this neighborhood, but it would bother me if it provided a not so good quality of fish, because it would be a missed opportunity to create a positive situation on many fronts for this neighborhood and its residents.

I don't think many people realize that Sunshine Market and even the Lobster place at some level allow you to get very good fish at reasonable prices. They are much more honest to their customers imo, than lets say wholefoods, thats charging the same prices than Lobster Place (in Sunshine market's case even higher ones) for a much worse product.

It is my belief that you don't have to outprice residents for good quality, but rather, you can give fair prices (ok, nyc fair prices) and still provide high quality standards, and in my opinion this should be a kind of mantra for whoever opens a business in this neighborhood.

I've been reading this blog for a long time, and look, I too kind of get sad if some old institution like a 9th street bakery closes, but let's look at 9th street bakery and then compare their bread to Amy's Bakery in Chelsea Market/Hells Kitchen, or their cakes to the Black Hound on 2nd ave, there is no comparison, and I really don't think their prices were much lower than the other two places I mentioned.

Ok, i maybe represent from an EV veterans point of view a more yuppie, gentrified EV resident than many of the old timers, even though i've been hanging out here since the mid 90's on and off, however let's be real. If the EV is to keep some of its roots of local and unique (no 7/11 please!) then its gotta be supported, in my opinion, by a new kind of local business compared to the past. Still local, still unique, but at a high standard (which doesn't necessarily mean high cost) cause that's how I think local business owners can respect and in some sorts maintain the neighborhood's local business legacy while also being real to the present and near future.

And there are already a lot of local businesses around that do this: Mast Books, Wine Shop, Tarallucci e Vino, TS Bagels, Union Market, Sunshine Market to name a few, so its not like this isn't happening already. Would just be nice to continue see it happening, especially in the case of a fish market, where high standards make the fish so much healthier and better.

Anonymous said...

Have no doubt that TSB owner could make a success out of a local fish shop. Questions of local support seem settled here!

Anonymous said...

Ninth Street Bakery never sold "cakes" like Blackhound -- but you could get a lovely chocolate babka for $6 bucks. They didn't have the variety of Amy's Breads, but you could get a nice rye for $2.50, or pumpernickel with raisins (1/2 loaf) for $3. So you are right, there is no comparison. But they had nice fresh breads and rolls brought in every day, homemade soups, and a low key vibe that will be missed. No beef with Blackhound (lovely cakes) or Amy's, just perhaps not an equal comparison, really.

High standards are fine, but in NYC, it usually means a high price tag...

HippieChick said...

I would buy fish three times a week from a local fishmonger...I loved Victor's and the one on 1st and 9th. At the moment I'm hating on Whole Foods (who isn't?) so am buying fish from Seatuck and the other dealer in USquare Saturday Greenmarket. Inconvenient and limiting, but good and local-fresh.