Longtime West Side Market vendor set to expand on east and west sides

Kate’s Fish, a West Side Market staple for almost 20 years, has ambitious new plans to expand both inside the market and throughout the Cleveland area.

By Hannah Miao

Photo courtesy Kate’s Fish

Kate’s Fish, a West Side Market staple for almost 20 years, has ambitious new plans to expand both inside the market and throughout the Cleveland area.

Owner Tom McIntyre says he will soon open a new stand at the West Side Market called West Side Seafood and bring Kate’s Fish to North Union Farmers Market in Shaker Square. He also hopes to launch a seafood takeout pop-up with local chef Brett Sawyer in the next few months.

Kate’s Fish stand at the West Side Market

Kate’s Fish stand at the West Side Market

Kate McIntyre, Tom’s mother and the company’s namesake, started the business in 2001. Since then, the family-owned establishment has steadily built a reputation for its first-rate products and stellar customer service. 

After closing in April due to the coronavirus pandemic, the stand reopened on May 1 and has seen healthy business ever since. “With restaurants being closed, people are cooking more meals at home and wanting to eat high-quality food that they would otherwise go out to eat, so they come to us for the best seafood,” says Tom McIntyre.

While Kate McIntyre remains a partner in the company, the two recently reached a business agreement in July that gives Tom McIntyre control of Kate’s Fish — and the freedom to make expansions he’s been eyeing for some time.

First on the docket is West Side Seafood, McIntyre’s new stand at the West Side Market. When Classic Seafood announced that it would not return to their stand post-Covid, McIntyre took over its lease. Having purchased Classic’s equipment as well, he says he’ll be ready to open West Side Seafood in September or October.

“I want it to be a totally unique brand,” he says. “It’s a brand I get to create totally from the start.”

West Side Seafood will have a focus on shellfish (crab, lobster, shrimp, clams, oysters), smoked fish (smoked salmon, smoked bluefish, lox) and prepared items (dips, sauces). Meanwhile, the Kate’s Fish stand will expand its fish offerings and minimize its shellfish products.

These fishmongers wear masks

These fishmongers wear masks

McIntyre will also be bringing Kate’s Fish to Cleveland’s east side through the North Union Farmers Market at Shaker Square. He’s already been approved as a vendor at the Saturday morning market. Now, he’s just waiting on the refrigerated vans he ordered to arrive. 

North Union Farmers Market maintains certain rules for their vendors, so Kate’s Fish will offer a specialized inventory at their stand. McIntyre plans to bring hand-cut fish filets and prepared foods like smoked fish and soups. He anticipates that the bulk of business will consist of pre-orders.

Kate’s Fish aims to be at Shaker Square starting on the first Saturday of September. McIntyre says he’s eager to bring seafood to the North Union Farmers Market and access a completely new customer base.

Partnering with Brett Sawyer, chef and owner of The Plum and Good Company, McIntyre also plans to venture into Cleveland’s restaurant scene with a fish fry concept. At the moment, McIntyre and Sawyer are working to secure a short term lease for a pop-up seafood takeout restaurant. Their menu will feature items like fried fish sandwiches, lobster rolls and oyster po’ boys. If successful, the two hope to expand into a longterm restaurant in Ohio City or the near west side. 

“What we really want to do is change the way Cleveland thinks about seafood,” says McIntyre. He sees his forthcoming restaurant as a younger, fresher alternative to old-school, white-tablecloth seafood restaurants like Blue Point and Pier W. 

Kate and Tom

Kate and Tom

The growth of Kate’s Fish comes in the midst of the ongoing debate about whether the City of Cleveland should turn over the West Side Market to nonprofit management. Vendors have expressed frustration over infrastructure concerns, rent increases and typical bureaucracies that are innate to city government. According to Cleveland 19 News, the market has lost 30% of its vendors in the last few years.

McIntyre is no stranger to the challenges of growing a business in the market. He acquired Dani’s Seafood in 2017 with the intention of renovating the H14 space. However, McIntyre says the city won’t offer more than a 1-year lease, so conventional funding options like bank loans are nearly impossible. 

“The market at its finest is a great incubator for a small business or startup,” McIntyre says. “Currently, it’s not an environment conducive to investment.”

Despite the difficulties it’s faced, Kate’s Fish has managed to grow a thriving seafood enterprise in the city, primarily by purchasing products direct from the coast instead of from local wholesalers. This differentiator will serve McIntyre well as he looks to grow his company. 

“Building up our suppliers over the years who meet our strict quality standards has been our competitive advantage,” says McIntyre. “It’s how we get the best seafood in town.”

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