Josh runs the brightest, cleanest fish markets you’ll find anywhere. He has been operating Lexington Market’s Harbor Fish since he purchased it in 1988. Since then, he has become an expert in seafood of all kinds, especially the sorts which breed and thrive in and around Maryland. Resting atop hundreds of pounds of ice, several dozen varieties of fish wait to be made a meal of. It’s a surprising ichthyological assortment for American eyes accustomed to 5 or 6 choices, already filleted and packaged in the freezer aisle. But it’s a selection that Josh understands and sources proudly.
Josh works from 6 AM to 5:30 PM every Monday-Saturday. He buys fresh fish from many different sources, most within Maryland, and all but a couple from the East Coast. His counter holds trout, steakfish, rockfish (his most popular offerings). I also see flounder, whitefish, cod, and whiting, all fish native to Maryland. The selection extends far beyond this, but the details start to go over my head. So we start talking customers.
Josh’s customer base has changed a lot in 27 years. In the beginning, Lexington Market appealed to a wealthier, whiter clientele. In 1988, he estimates that 85% of his customers were caucasian, while today 95% are from Asia or represent smaller minority groups. The naturally jovial Josh is on a first-name basis with more than 500 of these folks. He knows their preferences and is able to reserve the occasional special catch for a customer’s family meal. He has gotten to know quite a few since 1988, and has even seen customers’ children and grandchildren grow up to become customers themselves.
For the future of Lexington Market and his place within it, Josh is optimistic. He sees Lexington Market as essential to many people’s quality of life. He sees his role as multi-faceted: to provide fresh quality fish in great variety, to give customers friendly face-to-face service, to provide freshness that exceeds what is found in supermarkets, to put people in touch with real local food, and to give people an enjoyable experience. Like he says, “Whether you buy or not, you can come and have fun!”
That’s a side of Lexington Market that we sometimes forget to highlight, the market as a place to have fun. Once soiled by economic blight and wear, Lexington Market has recovered to become an exciting gathering place for all once again. Josh’s Harbor Fish is a big part of that. It’s a feast for the eyes, with bright lights glinting off variegated scales. It’s a venue for friendly exchange and pleasant conversation among friends and neighbors. And it’s a place of trust and pride, knowing that Josh is scrupulously working to keep his goods clean and fresh for everyone who needs them.