Astor Place Store Offers Fresh Seafood from Japanese Fish Market
09/28/2023 · Newsroom Highlight
The seafood department inside Astor Place Wegmans is unlike any other the company has opened to date. Customers who visit the Manhattan store will find an expanded seafood department that includes some of the most unique, freshest, and highest quality seafood in the world. Our Sakanaya (“fish market” in Japanese) offerings boast world-class seafood from top suppliers, including hundreds of species from Japan’s premier fishmonger and retailer, Uoriki (“fish power” in Japanese), housed at the famous Toyosu Fish Market (formerly Tsukiji) in Japan.
This unprecedented access to Toyosu is only possible because of the longstanding and ever-evolving relationship between Wegmans and Uoriki, which began more than 15 years ago when Uoriki acquired MC Fresh, a wholesale seafood company supplying top Japanese restaurants, renaming it Uoriki Fresh. This acquisition presented an opportunity for Wegmans to understand how Uoriki’s relationships worked at the then Tsukiji Market and helped us establish a more direct source of seafood, specifically for our sushi program. By reducing many layers in our supply chain, we were able to access the best seafood in the world, incredible freshness and a more efficient or sustainable supply chain.
The relationship grew when we began co-hosting Japanese Seafood and Sushi Festivals with Uoriki at various Wegmans locations in 2009. The first event was held at our flagship store in Pittsford, New York. Since that time, we have hosted more than 20 festivals which involve bringing in expert Uoriki fishmongers and a variety of fresh sushi ingredients and seafood from the Toyosu market. The events draw thousands of shoppers, some from more than 200 miles away.
Most recently, we held the Sushi and Seafood Festival at our Wisconsin Avene store in Washington D.C. The event provided our Astor Place team with an opportunity to meet and work with expert fishmongers from our supplier, Uoriki, to learn cutting and preparation techniques in anticipation of opening our Sakanaya market in Manhattan.
During the first year the store is open, some of those expert fishmongers and Sakanaya teachers from Uoriki will oversee our Sakanaya market, found on the basement level of the new store. During that time Wegmans fishmonger and Sakanaya student, Adrian Hutchins, will work alongside the experts to hone his seafood preparation skills and cutting techniques to become a Sakanaya teacher himself, before taking ownership of our Sakanaya market.
“I am excited to be learning from the experts,” said Hutchins. “Everything they do is steeped in Japanese culture and tradition, from the way they handle and cut the fish to how it is displayed in the market. I am excited to learn it all.”
While Hutchins, who has been with Wegmans for more than 10 years, is working side-by-side with his Sakanaya teachers, his colleague Tonianne Wilmore, seafood department manager at Astor Place, will be running the day-to-day operations of the seafood department and Sakanaya market. This will include coordinating orders and selecting the fresh seafood coming in from Uoriki as well as which items to feature each day. Wilmore has been with Wegmans for just over 12 years. She and Hutchins are excited to offer an experience not found anywhere else.
“Our seafood department at the Astor Place store is unique. When customers come down the escalator, they will find our Sakanaya and seafood stations directly behind the produce department,” says Hutchins. “We have two service counters that face each other: one placed in the middle of the department and the other against the wall. The center station will be the Sakanaya market, where customers can watch us prepare the fish for them.”
Wilmore says she is looking forward to feedback from the customers. “Not only will we have world-class fish from Uoriki, but we will also have world-class domestic seafood options from along the East Coast,” added Wilmore. “Once we know what they’re looking for what they’re buying, what they’re excited for, and what they really want to see we will be able to provide it.”
Astor Place will be the only Wegmans store, and the only retailer in the country, to have Toyosu seafood offerings, which will be flown in fresh several times a week.
Beyond the Aisle
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Listen to the conversation Senior Public Relations Coordinator Mandee Puleo had with Adrian and Tonianne as they share how they have been preparing for the Sakanaya Market.