Roslindale Fish Market Business Profile
This is part three of a five-part series of photos and profiles of businesses in Roslindale Village. RVMS photographer, Bruce Spero, and RVMS Program Manager, Kelsie Evans, are visiting five businesses around the Village to capture some of what goes on behind the scenes. View more photos here.
“Good quality, pricing, and service” – that’s what Hope Bregianos, co-owner of the Roslindale Fish Market, promises you’ll find when you walk into her shop.
Hope and her husband Peter have owned the Roslindale Fish Market for almost 30 years, and Hope’s father owned it eight years before that. “We sort of lucked into it,” said Hope. After getting married, Hope and Peter opened a restaurant (Pisces Seafood in Chelsea), but sold it following the birth of their first child, Georgia, to take other jobs within the restaurant industry and focus on being parents. When Hope’s father couldn’t run the store anymore due to illness, they took over the family business.
Peter visits the fish pier in Boston at 6:00 am every morning to select seafood and then on to the produce market, only buying what looks fresh that day. “For example, today I wanted spinach but it wasn’t there, and I’d rather run out and wait for fresh fruits and vegetables,” Peter said. “You have to be picky and choose on a daily basis.” When buying fresh fish, Peter looks for “shininess of the eyes, firmness, and trust in my suppliers.” Peter works to build long-term relationships with his suppliers, but says, “I still have to check the product.”
Peter walks us through their selection, which includes about a dozen varieties of seafood, from salmon filets to Mediterranean sea bass to scallops and salt cod. “We don’t carry a huge selection. We focus on what our customers like and keep it fresh.” Peter keeps an eye out for specialty items he knows his customers enjoy. On this particular day, he was weighing out and packaging several pounds of calamari for a certain customer that always buys and freezes a large amount when he sees it in the shop.
“The seafood is unbelievable, prices are great, the feta is amazing – you can’t get better olives anywhere else,” said Michael, a regular customer who shops at the Fish Market once a week.
Hope and Peter migrated to the United States from Greece as young children with their parents in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. “Everybody moved for a better life, better opportunity,” said Hope. Peter’s family is from Tripoli and Hope’s is from Katerini.
They carry a huge variety of feta cheese, including several imported from Greece. One type, which is firm and sharp, is stored in a wooden barrel for flavor. The French imported sheep feta is also popular because it is not as salty and is more mild. “If a new customer comes in and isn’t sure what they like, we tell them to start with the French feta and then try the rest.” Peter recommends the domestic cow feta for salads and spinach pies.
You can also find a variety of olives from Greece, including three types of Kalamata, and large purple olives from Chile. Hope said a lot of customers request a combination of all the olives to take to parties.
“We started with more Greek, Lebanese, and Italian customers, but have since diversified. We’ve done our best to please them with fresh products and fresh fish,” said Hope. The Roslindale Fish Market also carries a huge selection of dried beans, nuts, and other dry goods that cater to many different cooking styles and are hard to come by in one shop. “Customers love to share their favorite recipes,” said Hope. She pulls different items off the shelf, noting which are popular and why. “Our Albanian customers buy cornmeal for a traditional pie recipe and the Italians like cornmeal for polenta.”
Hope enjoys cooking herself, and while she humbly describes herself as a “simple cook – a good cook, but not a great cook,” she regularly offers expert advice to her customers. A regular customer, Steven, approached Hope with a bag of large fresh green beans, asking, “What do I do with these?” Hope answered, “They are Roma beans imported from Spain, which we don’t have often, but Peter is sure to get them whenever he sees them at the market. Snip the ends, cut in half, sauté with onions and garlic, a few tosses with salt and pepper, and stir in fresh tomatoes.” Hope added, “we know our products and we know our customers.”
Hope and Peter greet almost everyone by name, and between weighing and packaging fish, ringing up customers, and dishing out cooking advice, are often asking customers about how they and their families are doing. “There are customers we used to see as kids, coming in with their parents, and now they’re parents themselves,” said Hope. In fact, one of those customers named the large display of Greek chocolates, cookies, and snacks when you first walk in, the “Island of Paradise” as a kid. The name stuck, and now, as an adult, he’s still a customer.
While Hope and Peter would like to see the Roslindale Fish Market stay in the family, they are quick to note that the decision is up to their kids, who have seen firsthand how hard running a small business can be. In the years they’ve owned the shop, “life has not stopped,” said Hope. “We’ve had kids, cared for aging parents, and being a mom and pop shop, you can’t call in sick.” “But,” she says, “we couldn’t have done it without the support of our kids. Growing up, they helped at the store a lot, and still do over the holidays and when they can.”
The challenges facing small businesses have grown. “This store could be four stores: a fish market, a produce market, a bakery, and a Greek food store. But small stores are disappearing,” said Peter. “We’re becoming extinct,” agreed Hope. “It is very important to support small shops so they survive.”
Many customers love the Fish Market precisely for the small, specialized shopping experience. “We travel a lot, especially to Europe, and I like that I can shop the same way here in Roslindale Village, visiting the Fish Market for fresh fish, the Boston Cheese Cellar for cheese, Fornax Bakery for bread, and Tony’s Market for meat,” said Dawn, another regular customer. Each of these shops offers a fresh product and expert, customized service.
Most of their business comes from word-of-mouth referrals. “It is nice when people open the door and ask, ‘Is this this fish market?’” said Hope.
Asked why their customers come back, Hope answered, “We focus on consistency and quality. We always try to buy the best and provide honest, good, and respectful service to our customers.”