Fish shop, a family affair
One of Glen Innes’ best-known businesses, Marsic Brothers, will be keeping us in fresh fish for a few more years yet, with the next generation of the family taking their turn behind the counter.
Croatian brothers Wally and Ivan Marsic opened the doors of their fish shop in Glen Innes in 1967. When an old fish shop came up for sale in Glen Innes, Wally and Ivan saw a golden opportunity. “The owner wanted £2000 for it,” Wally says.
“But Ivan had just bought a house and my savings were about £1600, so we offered that – and got it. We’ve been here ever since, and we’ve never had an argument.
“We made a big sign saying ‘Under New Management’ and used to dress in bow ties, white shirts and black pants.”
“Brother Ivan had a big American car, a Ford Customline 1957, so we used that to transport the fish from the city market, because we didn’t have any money for a van. We took the back seats out and put tins in the back and brought the fish from the city market to the shop that way.
“The fish shop took off so quickly that we had to get a trailer too to manage all the fish. Then, once we made some money we bought a ute,” says Wally. “We would clean the fish at the market while we waited for the boats to unload, then take the fillets back to the shop in the car.”
Ivan retired last year after 50 years in business with his brother. Wally’s pleased that his son Daniel, 33, and daughter Stephanie, 29, have now joined him at the shop. Stephanie has two sons, aged one and four. They haven’t shown any interest in the shop yet, but Wally wouldn’t mind if they decided one day to become the third generation of the Marsic family running the business.
The shop is busier than ever, and their customers have hardly changed. “They are like family”, Wally says, and the children and grandchildren of their original customers come in each week for regular orders of fish.
The shop has a far-reaching reputation, Wally says. “We have regular customers from Warkworth, St Heliers, Kohimarama, Newmarket, Pakuranga, everywhere really, and of course, the locals.”
Wally still goes to the city fish auctions every weekday morning at 5.30am to bid for and bring back the day’s supplies – snapper, terakihi, kahawai, gurnard, salmon, hapuku, flounder. “Gurnard is really popular these days. A lot of people buy it to cook, but it is lovely in fish and chips too,” he says.
Every morning, Wally and his son Daniel are behind the counter by 6:30am and the shop is busy as soon as it opens. “We have people turning up in their pyjamas and buying fish and chips. Some customers are coming home from work, some are going to work, and some are there because they’ve got hangovers and can’t sleep,” Wally laughs.
In amongst all this activity, the day’s fish has to be cleaned and filleted, the batter made, and the chips prepared for cooking. A couple of times a week, Daniel and Wally fire up the smokehouse and smoke fish for their customers using their special Croatian recipe. Wally says it’s just the right sort of wood, a bit of salt, and nothing else, “all natural, no preservatives”.
You’d think Wally would want to put his feet up on the weekend, but he’s been a keen bowler for as long as he can remember and is the proud holder of 40-odd club titles, about 15 Auckland titles and two New Zealand titles. Ivan is also an enthusiastic bowler and the pair have won various competitions together. Daniel, however, is a keen cricketer. He coached and managed teams and clubs before joining his father Wally in the fish shop last year.
“I’m enjoying the change,” Daniel says. “It’s very busy and the best thing has been learning what Dad has been doing over the last 50 years and hearing the stories from customers.
“The personalities and people coming in are always interesting; there’s such a wide range of people and cultures all in the shop at the same time, all getting the same thing,” Daniel says.
When you read news stories and find Marsic Brothers used as a point of reference in Glen Innes, which is quite often, you realise just how well known they are.
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