Ever wondered what it would be like to be your own boss? Graham Rogerson did. After several years doing shift work in IT, he was ready for a change.

Relaunching George’s Fish Shop

One thing that got him thinking about opening a shop was that he’d get to meet people. “And that didn’t really happen much in IT,” he remembers.

The question ‘what sort of a shop?’ was a bit of a no-brainer. Graham is a member of a family with sea water coursing through its veins.

His grandfather James and James’s brothers had their own fishing boats. Before they were 12 years old, Graham’s father, George, and his uncle, Tommy, were selling fish on the Coal Quay in Dún Laoghaire.

A welcoming environment, where people wouldn’t be intimidated.

As a child in the 80s, Graham himself worked in the family fishmongers in Monkstown Farm. This closed down when the business focus shifted to Ocean Marine, a wholesale business now run by Graham’s brother.

Then, in 2009 – just as the recession was really kicking in – Graham and his sister Lisa decided the time was right to reopen the family’s shop. They named it George’s Fish Shop in honour of their father.

A new take on an old tradition

This time round, however, things were going to be a bit different. Their fishmongers would have a deliberately contemporary take on the business of selling fish. And the vision wasn’t just about opening a shop.

“From the start,” says Graham, “it was about building a brand”. The brand’s retail outlet needed to be a new sort of fish shop – a place with “a welcoming environment, where people wouldn’t be intimidated”.

Dubliners are willing to support new businesses.

Part and parcel of this was their recruitment policy. “We look for nice people, jolly people with a bit of personality. People you wouldn’t be afraid to ask a question of,” he explains.

Slick graphic design from Rory McCormack and playful imagery provided by Emily Flynn have also contributed to the overall feel-good vibe of George’s Fish Shop.

And that cold, white, antiseptic look typically found in your average fishmongers? At the Monkstown Village branch, this has been banished in favour of a stylish and eclectic nautical vibe. It incorporates lobster crates and other pieces of kit with maritime associations.

bunting hangs across a fish counter staffed by two men in aprons

Graham Rogerson (left) and Morgan Ryan of George’s Fish Shop, Monkstown

This was all part of Graham’s master plan. He says one of the keys to taking on multiple locations is “making people remember” where they bought what they eat.

There’s plenty of clues here as to how George’s Fish Shop, despite being born in a recession, has flourished. But for all the modern vibes and hipster graphics, there’s something refreshingly old-school about their startup story.

A throwback to bygone shopping habits

Part of the appeal of Stepaside as a location for the shop’s newest branch was the fact that there’s already a butcher and a greengrocer there. “It’s a village with its own tradition and community feel,” says Graham. It’s the ideal setting for finding shoppers who want local produce.

Regarding the county as a whole, Graham also reckons that Dublin is a “blank canvas for entrepreneurs” – in a good way.

People in their 30s and 40s are only beginning to eat it now.

“Dubliners are willing to support new businesses. We like exploring. We like new places. There’s a flurry of new businesses opening,” he says. “So much that’s new and exciting is happening here now’.

And after generations of coming last in the protein popularity stakes, fish is having a bit of a moment here too.

“It’s a growing market,” according to Graham. “People in their 30s and 40s are only beginning to eat it now. People are interested in the health benefits too. Young mothers who wouldn’t have eaten it as children are now buying it for their own children. And they’re… happy to ask questions.”

Some foodie tips fresh from George’s Fish Shop

Before we let him go, Dublin.ie had a few more questions that needed an answer:

Dublin.ie: What’s your favourite fish, Graham?

GR: John Dory.

Dublin.ie: How would you cook it?

GR: Floured, seasoned and fried in oil.

Dublin.ie: What fish deserves to be more popular?

GR: Mackerel!

Dublin.ie: What’s a great sustainable fish you’d recommend to your fellow Dubliners?

GR: Black Pollock.

Dublin.ie: And how would you cook that?

GR: Floured, seasoned, pinch of curry powder, fried, squeeze of lime.

Rest assured, if Graham’s got any plans for opening a restaurant, Dublin.ie readers will be the first to know.

For more information, check out the fine fare on the shop’s website.

Laurence is a writer, cyclist and gardener. He’s always finding new things to like about Dublin, the city where’s he’s spent most of his life.

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