Harlem’s Family-Owned Famous Fish Market Defies Odds, Finds Success Through Faith During Pandemic

Tags: Currents Business, Coronavirus, Faith, Pandemic

By Emily Drooby

The moment Famous Fish Market’s doors opened for the day, people were already waiting to enter the Harlem shop. It was a welcome sight, one the long-time owners feared they wouldn’t see again.

“I have seen other businesses fall through this, even my favorite restaurants, it’s tough, it’s tough,” explained Michael Howie. His father owns the shop and he’s also the manager.

The pandemic has crushed thousands of businesses across the country.

According to a study done by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 41 percent of Black-owned businesses across the country shut down between February and April. That’s compared to 32 percent of Latino businesses, 26 percent of Asian businesses, and 17 percent of white businesses.

Famous Fish Market was started in 1974 by current owner, Eric Strickland’s aunt. He took over in 1998 and now runs it along with his wife, Viola and two children, Michael and Erica.

It has survived a lot, even the gentrification of the neighborhood. But when the pandemic erupted, the family thought this might be it.

“Honestly, I’m like, ‘We are going to do bad going into this.’ I just know it because we have never shut down,” Michael said. “The most we shut down was a day.”

The Black-owned business fought hard to survive.

“Things are starting to open up for us, we did a lot of things to deal with the coronavirus, we had to change our whole system,” Eric explained.

They changed everything; from their hours, to the way they take orders, even to the way customers receive their condiments. They struggled to get a loan and were turned down twice before receiving it.

The hard work paid off. Not only has the 46-year-old business survived, it has thrived.

“When we got back, the amount of love, it was just crazy I did not expect it at all,” Michael said.

Their daughter Erica said the family believes their Christian faith is a big key to their success.

“There’s a higher power, our blessings come from there,” she said. “As long as we do right, put out the right energy. Good things come back in return.”

That faith is coupled with a special family recipe.

“Once you taste it, it’s like no other taste like it, and that’s what keeps people coming back,” Viola told Currents News.

But there’s one more ingredient that makes this place special: family, something you feel the moment you walk through the door.

Fried-up food, faith, fortitude and family, that’s what you’ll find at Famous Fish Market.