Boro Park Snapshot: Pier 18 Fish Market
Before the number of pizza shops determined how Jewish a neighborhood is, it was the fish stores. Imagery of the fisherman throwing out his nets on Thursday to catch fish for the town’s Shabbos seudas is ingrained in Jewish folklore.
Boro Park’s fisherman is a young chassidishe man, the smiley faced owner of Pier 18 on — where else? — 18th Ave. and 49th Street. No fresh fish sold here jokes — the wares of this stores are so fresh they are “off the hook,” the storefront boasts.
Heshy Stauber’s father, Yitzchok, entered the fish business about 35 years ago, before the current owner was born. It started off as Stauber’s Fish Store, changing along the way to the more gilded sounding 18th Avenue Fish market until they finally settled on “Pier 18,” hinting at the fish’s origins and the store’s location. Heshy came into the business seven years ago.
“It’s amazing” working in a fish store, he told boropark24.com’s Heshy Rubinstein in an interview. Growing up, fish was a business, not a family discussion. They ate fish just like everyone else, he said. “It didn’t affect the household. Every Shabbos, every yom tov, we had delicious fish,” Heshy recalled.
The current coronavirus pandemic meant that they had to make some changes in the workforce but overall it didn’t affect their bottom line.
“People still need to eat,” Heshy said simply.
The shelves of Pier 18 are lined with a veritable ocean of fish dishes. Everything is prepared on site — the gefilte fish, salmon, lox, a half dozen types of herring, all laid out neatly on several rows, a store logo affixed to each container.
Pier 18 did not jump on the newfangled sushi dishes, preferring to stick to the traditional palates.
Heshy said that while people come in throughout the week to prepare a fish dinner, the peak times begin on Wednesday and culminates on Friday. Before Pesach they get a lot of requests for live fish. They prepare barrels full of live salmon in the weeks before Pesach.
Salmon, in general, Heshy said, is their number one selling item. He lamented that he has so many kosher cuts and scaly trawls for his customers. Why, he questioned, do people not purchase branzino, rainbow trout, Nile perch, turbot, seabass, tilapia, flounder, to name a few?
“We have to educate people that there are so many other types of fish,” he said. “Our crowd just wants to stay with their salmon and tuna.”
It’s hard not to talk to a fish store owner without bringing up the story of the talking fish — a carp in the New Square Fish Market that supposedly warned that “the end is near” in a 2003 whopper that spread throughout the Jewish community.
His fish, on the other hand, Heshy averred, can’t speak for themselves.
“The talking fish is a once in I don’t know how many years story,” he said. “The fish over here are the opposite — they’re all quiet, they behave, they listen to what we tell them to do.”
And they make a tasty Shabbos delicacy.