On September 16, after more than 75 years in business, the merchants at Mutual Fish Company will cut their last tuna steak. A sign on the door of the Rainier Avenue store says that owner Kevin Yoshimura, grandson of founder Dick Yoshimura, has decided to retire. The owner confirmed the news on Tuesday.

Yoshimura Sr. opened Mutual Fish—with its distinctive logo of a trio of swimming fish (Dick, his brother Denny, and Dick’s son, Harry)—on Yesler Way in 1947. The store moved to 2335 Rainier Ave. S. in 1965, where it stands today.

Over the decades, Mutual Fish has earned a solid reputation in South Seattle and beyond the A place to go for fish. A shop where fresh fish is sourced from all over the world and treated with care and respect. It was the first Seattle fish shop to feature a live oyster tank, the first to fly fish from California and Hawaii, and one of the few local shops to make fresh fish cakes from scratch. Dick Yoshimura was respected for his style and precision with a knife.

Dick’s son Harry Yoshimura took over the management side of the company in the 1980s, and his grandson Kevin joined him soon after. The father-son duo have been running the business ever since.

In his father’s obituary, Harry recalls that Dick Yoshimura came to Mutual regularly to help with the bills until the weeks before his death in 2012 at the age of 98. He showed his knife skills well into his 90s, outperforming other workers. Beyond that sharp skill set, Mutual Fish was known for impeccable customer service and specialty items like kasu black cod.

Harry said he received lessons from his father about fish as well as customer service, integrity and patience when he and his son Kevin ran the shop.

“Just be nice to people, have a lot of patience, be a little honest, and realize that things don’t happen overnight,” he said.

Mutual Fish’s legacy extends far beyond the Yoshimura family.

“Dick taught me the right way to cut fish,” said Sal Panelo, owner of Seattle Fish Guys in the Central District. “He was an expert, and his knives were so sharp he could touch and cut your finger.”

Panelo worked for Mutual Fish in the 1980s, and was one of many fillets and deboners that “smelled hundreds of pounds”, fish not sold in many other markets at the time. He remembers the containers that were filled with fresh fish and were trucked to the airport, bound for destinations like Monterey, California.

“They had a famous reputation for bringing the best fish to Seattle: being selective about the fish, making sure it was handled right,” said Panelo, who has “built his entire career” on what he learned at Mutual Fish.

“They were able to source from places no one else could, and from contacts and hunters who sell directly to Mutual,” Panelo said.

He employs a group of former Mutual Fish employees, who he says are all “sad to see them go”.

Many successful local fishmongers – including Ken Hewitt, owner of Kuzma Fish Market in Edmonds – have spent time smashing whole fish at Mutual Fish over the years, remembering their time in the South End shop fondly. Mutual was also where chefs and restaurateurs like Tom Douglas got their produce.

When Dick Yoshimura passed away in 2012, Douglas credited him with teaching the young chef “how to step back and respect the beauty of the product. He brought that respect to fish and, as a little white kid, it was great learning under him.”

Busy serving their end customers, the Yoshimura family did not comment further on the business or the future of the building.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: