The future of traditional trades lies in the hands of the young, but not all are keen to take over jobs that seem “old-fashioned”.
Those that are, however, are willing to take bold steps out of the cookie cutter mould.
Last month, we wrote about one millennial who chose the unconventional path of selling fresh fish at the wet market.
Despite the idea of dirty hands, slippery floors and smelly fish, young fishmongers are rising up to take on the job. Some are even moving the industry forth into modernity with them.
When you think of buying fish from the market, you wouldn’t picture sleek wood-panelled walls, fish cased in glass displays, and iPads for point of sales.
That’s just what husband-and-wife team Jeffrey Tan and Angeline Ong’s stall, Dish The Fish looks like.
Creating The New Age Fishmonger Stall
Impressed by presentable-looking markets he visited on university exchange in America, Jeffrey asked himself:
Why can’t a fish stall in Singapore be like this?
“The market is so clean, the fish nicely displayed and consumers are happy to be in a market,” he said.
With Dish The Fish, he wanted to change the misconception that wet markets were dirty and unhygienic.
But it was not only the appearance of the stalls that Jeffrey reimagined.
With his wife, Angeline, they brought in an online ordering system as well as an e-commerce website.
They introduced new ways to sell fish, like having vacuum-packed fillets and pre-packed bags designed for different customers.
They also reach out to customers with digital marketing through their blog and social media.
All this is helmed by cloud technology, keeping track of all retail and online sales, communications, and customer preferences.
After seeing success at their market stall, Jeffrey and Angeline expanded Dish The Fish with a store in West Coast Plaza, where they could have space to introduce sampling and cooking demonstrations.
[Fishmongering is] a trade that’s old as time and has evolved through time and place. We’re just making Dish the Fish a fishmonger that’s relevant and exciting once again.
From Finance And Business Tech To Selling Fish
Jeffrey, 33, and Angeline, 30, both left their office jobs to start the business. Jeffrey had a job in business IT, while Angeline worked in the finance industry.
They both say their previous work experiences had given them useful skills that made their new venture smoother.
“Jeff’s experience in business development was very useful in building up our forecasting and budgeting for the business,” they shared.
“Angeline’s experience doing sales and marketing in the finance industry has helped in many of the marketing initiatives seen today.”
Long before this, Jeffrey grew up watching his father sell fish wholesale. He passed away when Jeffrey was still young, and Jeffrey’s older brother then set up his own wet market fish stall.
Jeffrey continued to help his brother out, wielding a chopper to slice fish when he was just 15.
In an interview, he said he constantly heard the same questions from customers at his brother’s stall, “What is this fish? How do you cook it?”
Noticing there was a need to be met, they incorporated education into the business with fish-cutting charts, recipes and even cooking demonstrations at their second outlet.
Elders Get On Board With Change
You would think pasar aunties take one look at the young couple’s fancy fish stall and scoff, but that’s far from what happens.
In fact, Jeffrey is known to charm them with his fluent Teochew, Hokkien, Cantonese and Malay when they visit the stall.
When Dish The Fish was first opened in 2015, it wasn’t so well-received by market-goers.
Jeffrey started out by selling frozen seafood at the wet market, which did not appeal to customers who expected to find fresh fish in the morning.
After 3 months without sales, he switched to chilled fish and saw business pick up.
As Jeffrey and Angeline introduced their modern methods of displaying, packaging and selling fish, they had to help their customers adapt too.
It took quite a bit of explaining and educating initially, but the time taken to convert many of the older generation of shoppers was not as long or tough as expected.
Angeline credits sincerity and commitment that got the elderly on board with them.
“We take their preferences and wishes very seriously and put a huge responsibility on ourselves to [deliver] what they want to the best of our abilities,” she said.
Now, Dish The Fish has won over homemakers and even old folks to become loyal customers.
Dishing Out What Customers Really Need
Dish The Fish brings in as wide a range as they can find, from common Asian threadfin and grouper, to internationally sourced wild salmon and turbot.
As mentioned earlier, they create products that are fit for specific needs and educate customers too.
For instance, they sell curated bags that specially benefit growing children, or new mums who have just delivered.
Angeline tells us these bags sell briskly and often receive repeat orders.
Our proudest achievement is in getting customers to trust us enough to order fish from our website for their loves ones, their elderly parents, their young kids, and their wives going through confinement.
Another one of Dish The Fish’s specialities is massive whole fishes.
“We are also, dare I say, the only dedicated online fish retailer selling huge fishes,” said Angeline. “And by huge, I mean 3 to 5 kg types.”
Options are provided for customers to choose their preferred cutting styles for whole fish.
Then, Dish The Fish delivers them to customers’ homes in a temperature-controlled cold truck.
When I asked which of their items sells best, Angeline thought of their fish fillets and slices.
“It does well as we think from our customers’ shoes and pack them in very convenient, thoughtful ways for them to cook,” she said.
Finally, the couple shared that they are still working to bring in more unique items and widen their product offerings.
Dish The Fish
38A Beo Crescent Market, #01-24
154 West Coast Road
West Coast Plaza, #B1-22/23/24
Featured Image Credit: Dish The Fish