Pike Place Fish Market

fish market in Seattle, Washington

The Pike Place Fish Market is an open air fish market located in Seattle, Washington at the corner of Pike Street and Pike Place. It is known for their tradition of fishmongers throwing fish that customers have purchased, before they are wrapped.[1] After nearing bankruptcy in 1986, the fish market owner and employees decided to become "world famous", changing their way of doing business by introducing their flying fish, games, and customer performances. Four years later, they were featured repeatedly in the national media and television shows.[2] The store is now a popular tourist destination in Seattle, attracting up to 10,000 daily visitors, and is often billed as world-famous.[2][3]

Pike Place Fish Market
Company typePrivate
Headquarters86 Pike Place, ,
United States of America
OwnerJohn Yokoyama
Pike Place Fish Market



The Pike Place Fish Market was purchased in 1965 by John Yokoyama. Yokoyama was a former employee of the fish market, who bought the store to make enough money to afford the car payments on his new Buick Riviera.[4] At first, Pike Place Fish Market was unknown outside of the Seattle area. 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. 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". They had the idea of flying and throwing fish and having games with customers. They thought that staff were 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]

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. The business and its employees were being filmed by various movie crews, and being featured in many magazines. Now, during the summer tourist season, the fishmongers will perform now in front of as many as 10,000 visitors daily.[2] The success of the business has been cited to its human resources and employee attitudes.[5] The employees of the fish market will often speak to businesses, civic groups, and schools on ways to be successful. This has led to their being featured in motivational books.[2]

A popular feature at the Pike Place Fish Market is a fish which sometimes is made to "snap" at customers.[6] In 1991, CNN named the Pike Place Fish Market as one of the three most fun places to work in America.[7]

Flying fish

A flying salmon

The Pike Place Fish Market is best known for their habit of hurling customers' orders across the shopping area. A typical routine will involve a customer ordering a fish, with their fishmongers in orange rubber overalls and boots calling 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 for wrapping.[7] Initially, the shouted repeating of the ordered fish began as a prank on one employee, but was enjoyed by customers, so it became a tradition.[8] While working, the staff continually yell to each other and chant in unison while they throw ordered fish.[9] At times, the fish market staff will throw a foam fish into the crowd to scare bystanders, or select a customer from the crowds to participate in the fish toss.[10] Above the areas in which they throw fish, the market hangs a sign that reads, "Caution: Low Flying Fish".[11]

Taho, longtime employee, staffing the counter

In 1998, the Pike Place Fish Market was the subject of a documentary movie 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 companies such as Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Sprint Nextel, Southwest Airlines, Sainsbury's, Saturn, and Scottish and Southern Energy, for employee training.[8] 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.[7] In movies, it has appeared in Free Willy.[8]


  1. "Do you provide world-class service?". Reliable Plant Magazine. Noria. 2008. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-01-20.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 "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.
  4. "About the Market". Pike Place Fish Market. Retrieved 2015-01-20.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 "HR philosophy goes fishing for positive work attitudes". Seattle Times. 2008. Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  6. "Monkfish scares last tourist at Pike Place Market". KING5.com. November 11, 2011. Retrieved 2015-01-20.[permanent dead link]
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Bauman, Margaret (2006-11-26). "Good times means good business at Pike Place". Alaska Journal of Commerce. Archived from the original on 2009-01-08. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Lelyveld, Nita (2000-08-04). "Pike Place fishmongers showing up as examples of fun at work". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  9. Pfeiffer, Cristina (2006-03-22). "Seattle highlights". The Age. Melbourne. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  10. "Fishy tale could cause indigestion". Europe Intelligence Wire. Financial Times Ltd. 2005-11-08. Retrieved 2007-05-27.
  11. Landro, Laura (2006-08-19). "How I Got Hooked on Seattle". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2007-05-27.

Further reading

Tourists gone, evening clean-up begins
  • 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)

Other websites