by Kayla Stewart
At 145th Street and St Nicholas Avenue in Harlem a line begins outside
a modest storefront near the subway station and extends down the avenue
for about 10 hours straight.
The line is overwhelmingly filled with black people, elderly and young,
parents and children, singles and couples, who come for the fried whiting
shrimps and clams --as customers have been doing for 46 years.
Famous Fish Market has been a staple of its historic neighborhood since
1974 and today the rstaurant's family-black-owned roots are rare in a place
that has been deeply affected over the years by proverty, gentrification, and
most recently the pandemic, as well as the Black Lives Matter protests.
But customer still show up, mask on phones out, ready for what sometimes
can be an hourlong wait for fresh seafood and french fries. Nearby fish markets
have tried to achieve the popularity of Famous Fish Market, but have yet to
draw the same long lines.
The owner, Sterling Eric Strickland, has kept his family's business going even
through difficult circumstances for 22 years, working alongside his wife, Viola
and his daughter Erica. The way Famous Fish Market operates has shifted
becayse of COVID-19. The restaurant has cut its hours and only one
customer is allowed inside at a time, as opposed to the numerous people
who used to pack in. And there have challenges. Like many Black-owened
businesses, this one was twice denied a PPP Loan before it received a bank
loan to substain the business through the crisis.