Portuguese Joe’s Fish Market opened in 1965, has fed Trudeau, Reagan, Queen Elizabeth.
While seafood may have been flying off the shelves, hugs were the real order of the day Sunday at Portuguese Joe’s in Courtenay.
“Yes I am here on the final day and I?m very sad,” said long time customer Shelley Kleemann. “Every Saturday I?d come for my smoked salmon.”
Joe Veloso, a fisherman from Portugal started the fish market in 1965. It’s been in the same location on Comox Road along the Comox estuary every since. His entire family, four children and wife Nilda has worked there and kept it going after his death in 2003.
“I knew nothing about fish before” said Nilda Veloso. “But my husband was a fisherman in Portugal.”
However, Nilda, their kids and grandkids, learned alot about fish and customer service over the years.
“The one thing I love about our businesses is that we’re very people oriented, we make everyone feel like they?re part of the family which is very important.” said her son Cecil Veloso.
But a changing retail landscape, increasing red tape and regulations along with a decreasing fish supply spelled the end of a long run in business.
“It?s not making the money like it used to,” explained Lito Veloso. “There?s not as much traffic going through and there?s all these box stores, everyone?s got the same product and it?s the way of life, it?s one time shopping.”
Lito has been the family fisherman and will continue to sell seafood at the Comox dock but this is the end of an era as the store closed at 6pm Sunday.
“You know we?ve had Pierre Trudeau the Prime Minister back in the day, he flew into the base came here and he was actually on his way to see the queen so the chef picked up some fish and I know he was taking it to the queen so I know she?s had it, the queen of England?s had it.” said Cecil Veloso.
President Reagan even had salmon from Portuguese Joe?s.
Members of the Blue Angels flying team from Whidbey Island flew to the Comox Valley, bought a large salmon and said they were taking it to California for the president.
But Sunday was filled with lots of memories and sadness too.
“We knew our math from doing the old cash register, no calculators or anything but it?s a family business and it was the best thing of our lives.” said Nilda’s daughter Maria Buckley.
Nilda Veloso is about to turn 80 years old and will begin her retirement with a trip to Hawaii.