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.