The saga of the little fish market called Blue Bay began seven years ago at a garage sale in Grosse Pointe Park. Diane and Darrell Finken were the sellers that day, but as it turned out, they were really the buyers.
Nancy Gutierrez, who founded Blue Bay at 15308 Kercheval, just around the corner from the Finkens’ house, and ran it for 10 years, happened to stop by the garage sale. As she browsed, she asked the Finkens if they knew anyone who might want to buy her business.
They certainly did. Diane had been looking for something to do after leaving her job running the food service at Grosse Pointe Academy. A place within walking distance seemed too good to pass up.
So the couple acquired the original shop complete with colorful fish murals, paintings, and wall plaques, as well as Gutierrez’s recipe for crab cakes, which is one of the shop’s biggest sellers.
Diane ran the shop, with weekend help from Darrell, who works in wine distribution. This spring, she was about to renew the lease when the landlord informed her that he had promised the space to someone else.
What to do? They had previously been approached by a landlord in Grosse Pointe Woods who had space that had been vacated by the closing of, coincidentally, another fish market. They had originally turned him down, and were relieved to learn that the space was still available.
The refrigerated cases were still there, as was ample space allowing for shelves of sauces and seasonings to go with the fresh fish and seafood. It offered much more room than they’d had in the first location.
The couple closed the original Blue Bay the day after Easter, and spent a week refurbishing and painting the new locale in soft blues, greens, and grays that evoke a seaside wharf. They removed a dropped ceiling to make it feel more airy, hung a large blackboard over the counter, and opened again, losing only eight business days in the transition.
Although the new Blue Bay is just four miles away from the original, Diane says she’s seeing a new, younger clientele for her fresh Scottish and Irish salmon, crab, oysters, and perch, as well as her seafood soups, fish and shrimp stocks — even the plastic lobster bibs.
A rack of cookbooks near the counter is there for browsing. “A lot of young people don’t know how to cook fish,” she says. She hopes to remedy that with cooking classes in the fall. In the meantime, “People have been coming in and saying ‘Welcome to the neighborhood,’ ” she says.
They love how she drops a fresh lemon into the bag along with the fish, something she did at the original shop. When one of the new neighbors told another about finding a lemon in her bag, the woman was outraged. “They’re ripping off Blue Bay,” she said, not knowing that it was indeed Blue Bay, relocated to her own neighborhood.
Now she knows.
Blue Bay Fish & Seafood, 19531 Mack, Grosse Pointe Woods; 313-824-3474. 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Tue.-Fri., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sat., noon-4 p.m. Sun. Closed Mon.