Pike Place Market, a Seattle Landmark
Author: Dean Zulich, NWBiH.com 2006-02-01
Seattle's Pike Place Market has been open now for almost a century, and in that time it has become one of the most treasured cultural institutions in the state of Washington.
In the center is Walter, of Pure Food and Fish, a stand that turns fifty this year. The owner Sol Amon has been at the market since 1931. In his late eighties, he is still peddling fish, and is not planning on retiring for at least another ten years.
Harry Calvo, in the foreground, returned from Vietnam in 1967, looking for a summer job at the Pike Place Market. Also known as “Cal Ripken of the Market”, Calvo is still a favorite of the passing crowds at Pure Food Fish, famous for his smile and “that goofy ‘aw shucks’ look”.
In 1911, Jack Amon came to America and began selling fine seafood from a stand in Seattle's world-famous Pike Place Public Market. This family business, Pure Food Fish, is still a single long counter in the Pike Place Market run by Jack's first son, Sol.
Irving Amon, helped manage and run the market with his brother Solly for 55 years, while also finding time to serve in the US Army, attend U of WA and raise a 3rd generation of Amon's including Jeffrey E. Amon. At 11 years old, Jeff started working at Pure Food Fish not only to help out the family, but because he loved doing it. He would go to school all day and then race home so he could walk 3 miles to catch a bus to go downtown Seattle to work with "the guys".
Jeff's first duties were to sweep up the sawdust to help keep customer's feet dry prior to drains being put in that market; this was a job that needed to be done every day as often as needed. He soon graduated to stocking bags and butcher wrap and then taught to clean the butcher station, but he was getting really itchy to start cutting fish and waiting on customers. His father and uncle decided that he was just too young to do that but knowing how strongly he wanted to do this, Irving and Uncle Solly decided to begin to coach and train him. Jeff always learned very quickly and soon they allowed him to slowly start waiting on customers. They built a stool from an old smoked salmon box for him that always remained at the bottom of the scale so that Jeff could stand up and see as he weighed the fish for people.
One day Jeff's father, Irving and Uncle Solly called him back to the cutting block and told him they felt he was now ready to clean his first fish and after cleaning a whole lot of fish, the day came when they let him start filleting and streaking salmon. Before long he was cutting all the fish and setting up display for the retail counter. Now he was ready to be groomed for "hawking" the fish out front to potential customers as they walked by making sure they knew why Pure Food Fish prices and quality were better than each of the other 3 fish markets within 500 feet.
Around age 14, Jeff earned the position of 3rd in line to Sol and Irving and was now able to run the whole shop, including security (making sure no one was stealing from the cash register or the display cases), marketing (proper displaying of fish and effective "fish calling"), managing (making sure the guys were working and not goofing off) as well as accounting (preparing the deposit and balancing the cash register). While other kids his age were going camping to Lake Chelan for the weekend, Jeff was working and with Saturday being the busiest day of the week (and it still is) he never had a Saturday off. But he doesn't regret it...the top-notch training and coaching and hands on learning for so many years has made him an undefeatable contender in his field. As Jeff's mom, Sharon, says, "I guess all the Amon's have fish market in their blood." With Pure Food Fish still going strong at nearly 100 years old, that definitely proves that point!
Jeff is now living in Phoenix, Arizona and in the process of bringing his seafood business savvy of the Pacific Northwest to the Southwest - Amon's Seattle Seafood Market.
And next time you are in Seattle's Pike Place Public Market, be sure to say "hi" to Uncle Solly at Pure Food Fish and tell him Jeff sent you.