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Fayetteville & Fish


by Vanessa Pillmore

Fish is a very popular entrée to many. People love how they can choose a variety of flavors to combine with various sides, such as vegetables or grits. Fish is not only tasty, but it is imperative for one’s health. Three local fish markets took the time to talk about what their favorite fish meals were, the benefits of eating fish, and what the best type of fish to consume is during these cold winter months.

Chang’s Seafood Market: James and Sun Thompson are the owners of Chang’s Seafood Market located at 110 Johnson Street in Fayetteville. They have had the market for 31 years this coming February. When asked what motivated them to open up a fish market, Sun replied “I’m from an island in South Korea, so I was always surrounded by water. Fish is all I know.” When Sun came to the states, she said it was really hard to learn the English language, even harder with six children in the house. To learn the English language and any other skill Sun desired was too difficult with her situation, so she stuck to what she knew: fish. Sun said what makes their market unique is that all of the fish in the store come from the wild and not ordered in, which makes them all natural and healthier for the body. All of the fish come from Hampstead, North Carolina. 

Sunfish Market: Will Randall is the owner of Sunfish Market located at 404 Sante Fe Drive, Suite 100 in Fayetteville. Will was a sushi chef for seven years until he decided he wanted to open up his own market. He fell in love with cooking unusual types of fish as a sushi chef and wanted to continue on and eventually open up his own fish market. He saved up some money and opened up SunFish Market on July 1, 2011. Business has been booming ever since. Will said what makes his market stand out from the others is that he has a variety of exotic fish that other markets don’t usually carry. He receives his fish from not only North Carolina, but Florida and Hawaii as well. 

Ramsey Street Seafood Market: Janet Lee is the owner of Ramsey Street Seafood Market located at 2720 Ramsey Street in Fayetteville. She has owned this market for nearly 26 years. Her husband and brother-in-law opened up a fish market in St. Pauls several years ago, but since they now all live in Fayetteville, they wanted their market to be more local to their home. Janet said her business is unique because it is one of the longest-run fish markets in Fayetteville. She has loyal customers that travel from St. Pauls (where the previous market was) to Fayetteville just to shop at her market. The fish at this market also come from Hampstead, North Carolina.

What makes fish so healthy?

“Seafood is very good for your health,” stated James Thompson of Chang’s. Fish is full of Omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for a person’s health. Omega-3 fatty acids make for healthy skin and hair and may contribute to the prevention of heart disease. They are also vital for prenatal and postnatal neurological development and have been known to highly improve the nervous system. Moreover, Omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce tissue inflammation and ease rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. 

All of the fish market owners agreed that Alaskan Salmon was definitely the healthiest fish for one’s health as it is full of Omega-3 fatty acids. However, all types of fish contain high levels of protein and are low in fat (www.seafood.edf.org).

What is the most popular fish to eat in the cold winter months?

The type of fish customers purchase in the winter depends on what fish market they go to. All markets have different fish that are popular during the winter months. According to Sun Thompson, most people prefer to bake their fish or make seafood gumbo. Sun explained that most customers purchase a variety of fish to bake during the winter, such as Flounder, Snapper, Trout, Black Bass and several others. 

The Sunfish Market always has a constant flow of Salmon and Florida Pompano purchases, as these are the most popular fish at the market. Will said he sells a lot of this year-round – so much that he can’t even tell when it’s more popular than when it is not. He sells approximately 500 pounds a week!

Janet Lee of Ramsey Seafood said most customers purchase two types of fish, Spots and Virginia Mullet, to fry during the winter. The supply of Spots usually comes in sometime in June and lasts until the end of December. The Virginia Mullet is definitely a seasonal fish for this market as it is only sold in the fall and winter months.

What else should one eat with fish?

There are lots of sides to put with fish. Sun stated that it depends where a person is from. Most Southerners choose to have fish and grits, coleslaw or hush puppies as a side. Vegetables, such as collard greens and broccoli, are some favorites. Janet said French fries and/or cornbread are also a very common side to put with fish.

What are the owner’s favorite meals?

When asked what the owner’s favorite meals were, there were very different responses; but that is probably due to what each fish market sells. Sun and James said they enjoy Spotted Trout, Conch and Spots. Janet said Spots was a favorite of hers, too; but also loves to eat fried Virginia Mullet. 

Will at Sunfish Market said his absolute favorite is the Florida Pompano. He said that if a person does not like fish, this type of fish would definitely change his or her mind. “The Pompano is exotic and tastes so incredibly amazing,” said Will. He always adds seasoning and a couple of special sauces from his market to his Florida Pompano meal.

What makes an owner love his market?

All of the fish market owners truly love and appreciate all of their customers. "I love all my guests," explained Will. “I appreciate all the support we get and it makes me so happy.” He said he loves how personable he is with everyone at his job and how he gets to meet so many people. 

Sun and James said their favorite thing about the market is the relationships they have with their customers. After having so many recurrent customers it almost becomes a family. Everyone knows each other on a first-name basis. This is Sun’s absolute favorite thing about her market. 

Janet of Ramsey Street Seafood Market couldn’t agree more. “We have customers that come all the way from St. Paul to get our fish still,” said Janet. “All of my customers are my friends.” As previously stated, Janet’s family moved from St. Paul to Fayetteville so the market was brought to the local area with them. 

So, what is the best fish market in Fayetteville?

No one can go wrong with grocery shopping at any one of these fish markets in Fayetteville. All of them offer an array of fish and all owners have unique experiences with seafood. All owners are amiable and love their customers. They are also very knowledgeable of the seafood in their markets and can help a customer pick out exactly what he or she is looking for. It is great to support small local businesses in the community, especially those that are willing to go the extra mile for any customer that stops in.

Always remember to consider fish as a meal, whether it is winter or not. The health benefits that come from eating fish are imperative to your wellbeing. While there are fish oil supplements and other foods that can improve your health, it is always better to eat the actual fish to get the full potential of those health benefits. Just ask any of these fish market owners – they would be pleased to talk to you about it!