Local Fish Market Closing After Decades, Blaming Competition and Rent

By Carol Tannenhauser

After 26 years, Joons Westside Fish Market, at 774 Amsterdam Avenue near West 98th Street, is closing next Tuesday, November 7th, “because the landlord raised the rent to $12,000 a month,” said manager Polo Revira, “and we cannot make a business out of it anymore.”

Landlord Brusco Realty disputed Revira’s characterization.

“Absolutely not,” said a spokesman from Brusco. “There was no big rent raise.”

“He’s lying,” Revira countered. “We don’t have a lease anymore, we pay month by month. He raised the rent.”

Brusco didn’t return our second call to respond to Revira. In the first call, the spokesman confirmed that Joon’s is closing on Tuesday, November 7th, and said Revira told him he was “being squeezed out by Whole Foods” and the fact that “the new generation of Upper West Siders doesn’t cook fish, they eat out or order in.”

“We can’t make a business of it,” Revira admitted. “There’s no future in it.”

The City Cook site praised the spot as a reliable source of fresh fish (they also say the store opened in 1986 which would make it 31 years old).

“They will cut to order and always have a big variety to offer. On any visit you may find bluefish from Montauk, octopus, wild shrimp, soft-shelled crabs, gorgeous tuna and swordfish steaks, or wild King salmon plus regular choices like sea bass, salmon steaks and flounder. They also have a tank of live lobsters. Prices are excellent and service is warm and friendly.”

Revira said neighborhood tastes are changing.

“I feel bad, I’ll miss my customers,” he said. “Always I think of my customers. I love my customers, but what can I do? The old generation is moving out. The new generation wouldn’t cook fish. They order in. There’s no future in this place.”

And what’s in Revira’s future?

“I’m putting in an application to Whole Foods,” he said.

Photo by @above_96th.

FOOD, NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 61 comments | permalink
    1. Paul says:

      It opened in mid-August 1988 under a different name with different owners. I had just moved to the neighborhood and unwittingly became the first customer.

    2. Kathleen Treat says:

      This is so bad for the ‘hood…..and for all New Yorkers….same old same old….real estate developers and landlords running
      our City – badly! Get them out of political spending.

    3. Pedestrian says:

      I believe the fishmonger! Landlords would rather have their spaces empty that allow small businesses to continue. Empty commercial renal space is incentivized by the city. What you incentivize you get! More and more store fronts on the upper west side are empty. Greed is making the UWS look like a depression era Main Street but the difference is the landlords are making $$$$$ at tax payer and small business owner expense. The Democratic Party should be ashamed of itself for renominating a man who has admitted that he pulls strings for his “friends”. The Dems would rather run against Trump that support candidates who are willing to focus on local issues like smalll business retention, clean streets, regulating oversized and abusive development. Never mind it’s not a out quality of life it’s about how many $$$$ one can get in ones campaign fund.

      • your neighbor says:

        You have no idea what you are talking about. Neither the city, state, nor federal government incentivize landlords to have empty properties. If a property is vacant, the landlord has less income. Same as if you take a leave of absence from work for 6 months and lose 6 months of income – the only incentive you have is less income so less income taxes.

      • Sherman says:

        You’re ranting and frothing at the mouth but you have no idea what you’re talking about.

        Even the manager of this fish market concedes business is down due to changing dining habits and competition from Whole Foods.

        I’m sorry whenever a local business goes under but times change and that’s life.

        To blame this fish market’s demise on “greed” just shows your ignorance about a very complex issue.

      • Ground Control says:

        Pedestrian-you are absolutely correct. Our neighborhoods are becoming retail ghettos and blighted areas. This closing of Joon’s fish market is just one more empty store front to add to hundreds more on the UWS. The landlords who are raising rents, not always but almost always do so exponentially and leave properties empty if they cannot get their price. I suspect they are not suffering. If they were they would do their level best to keep those storefronts rented and negotiate with the retail outfits occupying them. There are long stretches of avenues completely dark at night from unoccupied stores. No eyes on the streets. Fewer and fewer services for the community everyday. NYC is at the center of a “greed is good” vortex. Until government steps in which seems not possible under this Mayor, it will unfortunately only get worse.

      • Upperwestsidewally says:

        Can somebody explain why an empty store front is financially more advantageous than a paying tenant to an owner? And how is all this ‘incentivized’ by the city?

      • Independent says:

        Not to belittle the points you were making or mock your sincerity but…

        Renal space? Is that space reserved for selling kidney beans, perhaps?

    4. Bill McGovern says:

      Thank you for your reporting. Important that we know what is happening to our small businesses. As neighbors we should join together and support our locally owned small businesses before we are swallowed up by Whole Foods/Amazon. If interested in talking about this shoot me an email – williammcgovern1@gmail.com.

    5. James says:

      What a shame! The quality of their fish is much better than any other local place. We will miss Joons – thanks for the years of neighborhood service!

    6. UWSHebrew says:

      I never understood how they stayed open. It’s not 1960 anymore with women whose lives revolve around cooking for their husbands.

      • Jen says:

        I work full time meaning over 8 hours a day. Some weekends too. I always cooked – for myself, now my son as well. Cooking fish is not complicated and quick. And costs you a fraction of what you would spend at the restaurant.

        The idea that women nowadays don’t cook is absurd. We may not bake bread from scratch but cooking is great and a good way to ensure proper nutritious diet.

        • UWSHebrew says:

          Jen — you’re the exception, not the rule. Based on my interactions with women aged 25 – 40 living on the UWS, I would say 90% have not and will not buy raw fish and cook it. They buy prepared foods (including salads), and the oven never needs to be cleaned, because it is never used. 2017 is for texting, seamless web, etc.

          • Jen says:

            @UWSHebrew,

            I work in financial IT and so do most of my friends. We are very fluent in “texting, seamless web” and all things Internet. As a matter of fact we design such things and use them as well. I don’t know where you took 90% statistics from but it is incorrect. It could however be correct in this tiny little world you live in songet out and see the broader audience. Btw Whole Foods and other upscale market also have huge fish and meat department and people buy it and guess what?! – cook it !

            If the demand didn’t exists, these places wouldn’t have had these departments.

            • UWSHebrew says:

              my 90% figure comes from the women I date. I agree with your Whole Foods point, but to specifically go to a store just to buy raw fish…eh. Not in this neighborhood. When I travel to ethnic neighborhoods in Queens the fish stores are huge and they have customers in there non-stop. But UWS is a different story…

      • Mark Moore says:

        Me too. I walked by there last month and said this place is still here? I guy lots of fish but at Fairway uptown.

    7. Sean says:

      People are busy. They multi-task. Kids even. Women work outside the home. No one has time to cook or hang out the wash. These stores are a relic of the past like it or not. People do shop differently now.

      • Stuart says:

        “Hang out the wash”? Are there any UWS buildings where I can hang out my family’s wash? With all the laundromats that are closing, this would be a luxury.
        My lease is up soon, so please provide the details. Thanks

      • j says:

        Sean,
        Actually there are quite a few “stay-at-home” mothers on the West Side these days ( and other affluent areas). Hang out in front of schools (especially preschools) and SoulCycle and you’ll see.

        As for changing eating/shopping/cooking habits….more than folks are “busy”….Various reasons for less cooking…
        but it is true in the end it impacts on food markets

      • B.B. says:

        You and others arguments fly in the face of reality.

        Whole Foods, Fairway, Zabar’s and every other supermarket or whatever on the UWS sells fresh fish (both with head attached and or packaged)so where is it all going? Someone is buying it daily and preparing meals. Or do some of you think there are a few hundred “crazy” cat ladies out there buying up and cooking fish to feed felines?

        It takes no time at all to grill or fry a nice salmon steak. For that matter fried fish of all sorts is rather easy.

        Oh and just so you know, it’s 2017; there are also gay families and couples who cook dinner each night. And yes, they prepare fish for themselves and or children.

        By the way some of you are going on supermarkets don’t have meat sections either. Or do you think all that raw beef, pork, chicken and so forth is just there for window dressing?

    8. joe says:

      Should put a kitchen in and offer take out

    9. Mel says:

      Greedy landlords should be fined for vacant spaces for more than 3-6 months of space not rented.

    10. Joe Fensterblau says:

      such a catastrophe!
      I don’t shop there too often, but whenever I’m in that hood, I can’t resist that place.

      so sad to see it go.

      This loss is again indicative (as we mention on this site time and again) of what the UWS is becoming.

      Maybe they’ll bring in something the UWS needs so desperately: Duanne Reade or CVS…

      or maybe something really important and scarce…another BANK.

      :eye roll:

    11. ann bluestein says:

      I am bereft. Went in once or twice a week. Great selectio and very clean. So sad. I wish all the lovely employee’s good luck in the future.
      Will miss their homemade fish soup.

    12. lynn says:

      This is the same story, almost word for word, that I heard from another business owner who closed up shop after 50 years. The owner said the landlord wouldn’t give him a new lease and squeezed him out and the landlord denied it. How do we go about finding which is true?

    13. SJM says:

      I love Joons! they make awesome sushi. I love to run in there and great a sushi box. This makes me so mad. That whole block will be unoccupied because Brusco’s rents are outrageous

    14. Trevor says:

      It is always a knee kerk reaction ny both tenants and the press to blame rent increases when a business moves out. This business man admits the neighborhood’s customer base has changed
      That is true every where in New York New York
      Owners are too easily defamed.

    15. Sean says:

      Please read what the man wrote. He does not have enough customers to support his business. The area is changing and newer residents are not his base. It does not in any way sound malicious. Our retail landscape is changing.

    16. RWC says:

      Even if the rent is not $12,000 if it’s $10,000 or $8,000. it’s an astronomical amount of money for a neighborhood small local fish store to pay in a crummy old tenement storefront .
      The manager of the fish store will be an asset to Whole Foods, he’s personable, smart and knows his fish and how to butcher them.

    17. Alex Lopez says:

      Hey,we need a fish market in the San Fernando Valley.
      There are a couple but the fish they sell,I wouldnt feed to my cats.
      Right now there are hundreds of closed down businesses and shops available to rent/leade.
      Dont go out of business man …relocate..
      You have a greatand needed market.
      I like to fish but buy fish in the off season…we eat fish at least once a week sometimes twice.
      I live in Arleta and there are lots of Asians in my community that love fish as well.

    18. Warren J Bunce says:

      That is the sad truth!! Not a patron, but self employed since 1983.Good luck!!!

    19. Paul RL says:

      Bummer, this was another place that I frequented and was just waiting for the shoe to drop. Their selection was superior and more varied than the other places mentioned, and I thought the prices were more reasonable too.

    20. Ray von Dohren says:

      This absolutely sucks. Thus was my place for fish, period. I delivered fish when I was a kid many years ago. Joons brought back great memories every time I went in there. The fish was always good. The quality good.

      I won’t patronize the new store. Greedy landlords are %@#& jerks. They are ruining neighborhoods with their greed. They should all have cases of painful hemorrhoids.

      • Woody says:

        That’s a real adult response. Boycott the next store that opens and employs local workers and flips a space from vacant to rented.

    21. Fred Schneider says:

      we feel so terrible….What a surprise.
      We buy fish every week at Joon’s.
      We will miss you terribly, and so too will our stomaches and our cholesteral.
      Marcia and Fred Schneider

    22. mc says:

      I’m so sad to read this – I’m also a patron who will miss both the quality of the product, the reasonable prices and the warm service of those behind the fish counter.

    23. and the fact that “the new generation of Upper West Siders doesn’t cook fish, they eat out or order in.”

      Old generation too, from what I see around here.

      • B.B. says:

        Friend from college told me this story, how true it is I don’t know….

        Seems as a kid he stopped in to visit is UWS grandmother just before the High Holy Days, and in course of events excused himself to use the bathroom. Soon came out screaming about a “fish” being in the bathtub.

        Turns out his grandmother made her own “fresh” gefilte fish. *LOL*

      • B.B. says:

        Will give you the main problem with cooking fish is the smell. It takes days to leave an apartment, especially here in NYC where most units lack any sort of cross ventilation.

        Love good fried fish, but find ordering take away is better than dealing with the smell for several days after cooking.

    24. Jamie says:

      My family loves Joons, this is horrible news. We are used to buying fresh fish there every week and always love the soft shell crab sandwiches in the summer. This is a loss for the community.

    25. Steven says:

      I’m not surprised. I remember when it opened, I said “I give it 26 years, 31 max.”

      • GG says:

        Now this is funny.

        To all of you trying to be ironic or cracking jokes, etc. This is how it’s done.

        Well done.:)

        • Woody says:

          Agreed…it’s not done by repeating the NIMBY mantra “another Duane Reade, bank, Starbucks, etc”.

          Do people who post those comments really think they came up with an original thought?

    26. Jasmin says:

      Sir,
      Eff that. (A)Whole foods is for the birds, Come to Denver. While the hipsters are ruining my life and my living they think it’s “special” to buy seafood in my landlocked state.
      you’ll make a killing off of these jerks and I’ll buy from you! Talk to Bruce from seafood landing.

    27. joe says:

      It is clearly a combination of factors that makes small business difficult – high rents and competition from large national chains (eg Whole Foods, Trader Joes etc). In Joons’ case, it was exacerbated by the fact that with the exception of sushi, younger adults and families with school-age children do not purchase raw fish in nearly the quantities they used to, for various reasons (changing tastes, cost etc.). Kim’s Fish Market on 104th street is able to survive because (1) rent is much much lower, (2) prices are lower (though quality is as well) and (3) the demographic of the clientele still consumes fish.

    28. spendaway says:

      When will people get it through their thick skulls that the retail market is a function of consumers spending habits. Yes, that means you! Residential rents are high in this city because renters are willing to pay top dollar to live here! The market only bears what consumers are willing to pay for. Same goes for fish markets, drug stores, coffee shops, etc. Maybe you refuse to pay market rates for rent in this city, or $4 for a cup of coffee but there are plenty of others who will get in line and dole out the cash. Same goes for retail tenants. The landscape has changed and you need to take responsibility for the part you played in that. Just add up your receipts from Amazon, Seamless, Fresh Direct, ect. If you can honestly say you still shop 100% locally then you are the exception to the glaringly obvious rule of consumer spending today. Stop blaming greedy landlords. I work in commercial real estate and there is ZERO benefit or incentive to keeping a space vacant.

      • dannyboy says:

        I shop at Joons 3 times a week. I blame the the landlord for the increased rent.

        • Jay says:

          If you care about joons you just didn’t shop there enough. Otherwise, they would have been able to afford the rent increase.

          • dannyboy says:

            Just returned from Joons with fresh tuna (yesterday was mahi-mahi). It is sad that Joons gets displaced for a higher-paying bar. A bar just opened 3 stores down. But hey, the Market wants more bars on Amsterdam. Something special for the NJ tourists.

        • Smithe says:

          You might want to check your mercury levels…

      • Dear Spendaway,

        I’d like to get a real estate owner’s perspective on this issue for a documentary that I am making. Would you be available to sit down and speak to me? please feel free to email me at cryanATwheelhousecommunications.com I pu the AT there to dissuade spammers.

    29. talia says:

      this is my second such comment about a “beloved” place closing, but having shopped there when they opened, i thought the quality of the fish was poor. the placed stunk. it wasn’t a place i’d want to shop. i get the issue w/rents but we also have to have great businesses that create strong demand. neither was there for me in this case.

    30. Mb says:

      I shopped here multiple times a week but feared it was doomed and would go the route of its neighbors the laundromat and the pet shop eventually. Now almost half the block will be empty, presuming this store area sits vacant like the other spaces. A sad situation indeed and bad for the neighborhood. I am so frustrated by the closure of so many uws businesses and subsequent vacant spaces that sit empty for ages. I do not understand the logic of letting a space sit empty

    31. Anne says:

      Devastated! We bought fish from Joons twice a week! Needed better marketing; friendly, helpful place with fresh, reasonably-priced fish. Wish we had known they were having trouble. We could have mobilized support! No time to say goodbye! Thank you, Polo, and other workers!