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Nothing smells FISHY here
Gary Hirsch has been preparing to run a fish market since high school
Business First (Revised Article)

Gary Hirsch's first job following his graduation from Ballard High School in 1982 was selling fish at a seafood shop in Michigan. And in his business class at Michigan State University, Hirsch used a fish market as the central theme of every paper he wrote about starting a company.

"I had been a fisherman my whole life," explained Hirsch, whose enthusiasm for the sport was the subject of a newspaper article when he was 13 years old.

Hirsch turned his passion into a business, Highland Fish Market, four years ago.

Hirsch, whose only shop is located in Middletown Professional Park off Shelbyville Road, now have ambitions of taking his concept for displaying and selling fresh- and salt-water fish to other cities, as well as expanding throughout Louisville.

Lexington and Indianapolis are targeted as part of the growth strategy, but Hirsch won't go into many details except to say that upper-income neighborhoods not served by established specialty seafood stores would be likely locations. "I am trying to get this off the ground," he said.

He was looking for a spot in the Highlands area when he noticed a man hanging a "For Lease" sign on the storefront of the original Lotsa Pasta Italian specialty store, which had been relocated to Lexington Road in St. Matthews.

"It was serendipitous," he said. "I signed a lease the next day."

Three months later -- after the Hirsch spent $30,000 from his savings for stock, signs and decorating -- Highland Fish Market was ready for walk-in trade. Sales the first day totaled $352," Hirsch said.

"I considered that a success," he said, as he had projected they could break even at $200.

By 1997, annual sales at the store reached $200,000. Besides selling an assortment of fresh and fresh-frozen fish, the store sells seasonings, rice, sauces and related products. Such delicacies as alligator tail and squid steaks also are stocked, and a variety of Lotsa Pasta foods are available at the request of the store's first customers, Hirsch said.

Although he didn't know it at the time, Hirsch said, he was writing the business plan for Highland Fish Market when he was researching and typing his college term papers. Lenders were not as excited about his proposal for a small business, however, he said. "No bank would touch me."

To finance the first store, Hirsch painted houses ­ 20 of them in the Owl Creek subdivision alone.

Hirsch said: "For every house I painted, I put away $800 until I could afford to buy equipment. It took a total of eight months."

In 1996, Hirsch and a partner experimented at the downtown Haymarket, opening a 700-square-foot seafood section in a corner of the grocery store in the downtown food-and-flower court.

The experiment ended after a year. "It did well," Hirsch said, but the size and location did not fit into his new development plan.

The next venture took Hirsch to Prospect, where the former Carmichael's Bookstore was converted into a Highland Fish Market in 1997. That outlet was on target to finish its first year turning a profit on sales of $300,000, Hirsch said. Hirsch wanted to devote his attention to a new Middletown store, so he sold the business to Don Dissell, who renamed the shop Prospect Fish Market.

The 1,600-square-foot Middletown store opened in May 1998 after Highland Fish Market's lease expired at the Bardstown Road site and the landlord leased the space to another retailer, according to Hirsch.

At $85,000, start-up costs for the new store were more expensive, Hirsch said, but sales have been "right on target," as $400,000 in seafood and other products were sold during the first 12 months.

Gary Hirsch said Highland Fish Market is successful because it sells more than fish.

"This business is built on education," said Hirsch, who has decorated the store with nautical charts, posters on various seafood, cookbooks and a "Fish Tails" pinball machine. "Fresh fish is about color and smell. I encourage people to smell the fish," he said.

Kathie Hodge, an Oldham County resident who is a frequent customer, said she appreciates Hirsch's expertise. "He is very helpful with recipes. He once suggested a less expensive frozen crab over fresh crab for a specific recipe."

Such advice is one reason Hirsch said he is able to draw customers, although he admits his prices are higher than the larger grocery chains that dominate the market. "Do we try to compete with the bigger stores? Of course not. But then, they can't do what we do."

In today's lingo, Highland Fish Market is considered a "boutique business." Hirsch refers to it as a return to simpler times when shoppers stopped at the green grocer, butcher and fishmonger to put food on their tables.

"We're almost to the year 2000, and it's still like way back when," he said.

Pat Hicks, president and chief executive officer of the Kentucky Grocers Association, said specialty shops such as Highland Fish Market and health food stores are succeeding because people are more health conscious and have more disposable income. "It is a reflection of our attitudes in this robust economy," Hicks said.

Highland Fish Market wants to go back to their roots in another way, too.

In addition to scouting sites outside Louisville for new locations, he wants to reopen in the Highlands neighborhood that gave their business its name.

"Here we are, Highland Fish Market," he said, "and we don't have a market in the Highlands."

Chenoweth Square Location and History

In May of 2000,  Gary Hirsch decided to open another location in Chenoweth Square.  After a complete renovation of the store,  Gary had an offer he couldn't refuse and sold that location one month before opening.  That store became the Seafood Connection.  Fast forward 14 years... The seafood Connection was closed by the state and Gary was contacted to see if he wanted to take over.  After a location inspection, Gary decided to sign a lease and gut the store putting over $120,000 into the Chenoweth Square store and renaming it Highland Fish Market-Chenoweth Square.  The store opened on November 1, 2013 as a small version of the Middletown location.  The store was an immediate success!  After a little over a year,  Gary realized he was spread too thin and decided to sell a small branch of the Highland Fish Market.

The Next Chapter of the Chenoweth Square Location

Gary was at a family gathering in December of 2014 discussing how he had other business interests and was spread too thin running both locations.  At that point, Doug Elder overheard the conversation and it sparked an interest to him.  Doug and his wife Lori Elder had been looking for ideas to get into a business of their own, pursued the idea with Gary, put together a deal, bought the branch of the Highland Fish Market in Chenoweth Square and took over the operation as of February 9, 2015.  Gary was able to license the name Highland Fish Market-Chenoweth Square to Doug and Lori Elder.

Gary and his son Michael will continue to run the Middletown location at 12121 Shelbyville Road (next to Paul's Fruit Market) going on 20 years at the same location. Gary and the Elders plan to work together in order to continue the brand Highland Fish Market, that has been known for having the highest quality, selection and freshness in the tri-state area.



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Highland fish market is located in Louisville, KY ( Kentucky ). Highland Fish Market is the place to go for Fresh Lish in Louisville. Fresh Fish at Highland Fish Market Louisville. Louisville's Fresh Fish Market - Highland Fish Market. Highland Fish Market is not in the Highlands. Highland Fish Market is located on Shelbyville Road in Middletown. Fresh Fish - Highland Fish Market Louisville

Above is a list of links to pages throughout Highland Fish Market. Highland Fish is your Seafood Connection in Louisville, KY. We are located in Middletown, but are within driving distance from these areas: St. Matthews, Chenoweth Square (Shelbyville Road, Frankfort Avenue), The Highlands (Bardstown Road), and Hurstbourne. Middletown is in the East End. St. Matthews (Chenoweth Square, Frankfort Avenue, Shelbyville Road, Hurstbourne are also considered to be in the East End. Bardstown Road is only a mile or two from the East End. Highland Fish Market is Louisville's Connection for Fish and Seafood in Louisville, KY. You want Recipes? We have Recipes! Over 3,100 Fish and Seafood Recipes. We are your Fish and Seafood Recipe Connection in Louisville.

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