BY EMILIE OSTERKAMP
The history of Fisherman’s Market: Eugene’s gateway to the ocean
Fisherman’s Market located on the corner of Seventh and Blair in Eugene’s Jefferson Westside neighborhood appears to some as a site for sore eyes with a dated exterior, however the history inside the building gives readers a glimpse in to just how special it really is. Taking a chance on a less than favorable part of town, Carolyn and Dick Ramus opened the official market in 1976 with a passion for fishing and a vision of success. Today, Ryan and Debbie Rogers carry on the original vision with a few new ones of their own. The market serves as Eugene’s gateway to the ocean with a wide selection of fresh seafood daily and a delicious eatery.
At the young age of just eight-years-old, Dick Ramuses love of fishing began. Living on his aunts resort in northern Minnesota, Dick earned his title Captain Dick by serving as a guide taking people on fishing tours; these tours were all the more adventurous being he was a mere ten years old. Years later, Dick fell in love with fishing all over again, this time finding his soul mate. Dick moved to the west coast where he found a body of water that he had never experienced before. His passion for the ocean was onset immediately and would serve as his life’s guide. “Prior to when I knew him, he [Dick] would take summers off of work and he’d spend them on the ocean commercial fishing” says Carolyn Ramus, Dick’s wife.
Ramus too loved the sea and together the two spent a number of summers commercial fishing. While Ramus enjoyed the fishing adventures she and Dick had embarked upon, Dick seemed to experience deeper emotions rooted in his heart. Dick’s passion for fishing made the ocean his home. Dealing with strenuous weather conditions, long hours and mechanics on the boat was often far from favorable, but none the less, always worth it. Starting in ’76 Dick fished year around, crab in the winter: salmon in the spring, then tuna, followed by black cod and halibut.
The Ramuses constant presence amongst the commercial fisherman opened an opportunity out of Port Orford. At the time, the Port Orford Cannery had limits on the amount of crab they’d purchase which restricted the fishermen from bringing all they caught to shore. The imposed limits brought Dick to the idea that there was no better time to bring fresh crab to Eugene as they had done before. In the early 1970’s from December to February the two sold fresh catches out of their vans and pick-ups on 18th and Chambers; with this they had an inkling that a market would do well in Eugene, but no certainty. There was one factor they were certain about, “the traffic count was unbelievable. We could put out a sign ‘smelt .39 cents’ – in those days – and people would immediately pull over. That was before we built the new market, but even when the market when up, the signs brought people in” Ramus says. The Ramuses took chance and rented the desired space on Seventh and Blair. With a large sign advertising “fresh seafood” the couple began a business that would one day become the Fisherman’s Market.
1976 was the year The Fisherman’s Market began, as did the couples following. The open-air market scaled and bagged crabs and steamer clams along side what ever came off the boats right there in front of their costumers. Gradually they provided a wider variety of fish as the two noticed the costumers relied on their opinions above all, “basically, our costumer’s would come up and say – what’s fresh today? and go off of whatever we recommended” Ramus says. Dick himself would supply most of the crab to the market and it was common that they would purchase fish, such as salmon from other commercial fishers right off their boats. While Dick fished, Ramus managed the market. She had a cosmetic passion that amplified the market’s overall appearance. The ads, t-shirts, sweatshirts, aprons, logo and signs were all a product of her keen eye.
The Ramus’ crafted The Fisherman’s market from the ground up and worked around the clock. “Once we got the market opened and the people started coming, business really picked up – boy let me tell you – we had our hands full” Ramus says. The two wanted the market to be a “one stop shop.” After a period of time they went from selling just a variety of seafood, to condiments and produce. A server’s permit allowed the market to sell wine and host tastings on Saturdays and Sundays which allowed Ramus to sell another thing she had a divine taste for. They also had a semi-full menu that featured Captain Dick’s firecracker cocktail sauce – a local favorite, cioppino and chowder.
Looking forward, Ramus says the two had always hoped to one day retire and sell the market. Retiring came all too soon for Dick. Dick became ill, which in turn led to them sell the market in 1997. Though he spent the next three years commercial fishing year-round for the market, his go-go-go work ethic that revolved around fishing became too much in correlation with his health problems. Dick passed away in September of 2005 however; Ramus still visits the Fisherman’s Market operated by its new owners, Ryan and Debbie Rogers. “Ryan and Dick had a special connection, we couldn’t have found a better fit to buy it” Ramus says.
New beginnings: a question and answer piece with Ryan Rogers
Question: Let’s start from the beginning, you have to love the sea/fishing being you own a place like this, assuming I’m right, where did your love for the sea come from?
Answer: I’ve joked for many years that I’m just a good Samaritan feeding the world. You see, I’ve caught over 10 million pounds of salmon in my 25 year fishing career in Alaska. So that sentiment has carried over to my joy of feeding people. As for my love for the sea, that was just by accident. My oldest brother worked in the fish buying industry on the Oregon coast in the 70’s and went to Alaska in 1978, I eventually followed for a summer job, while going to the U of O. In 1983 I got my first fishing job and that over took my interest in my studies, and started fishing full time.
Question: I’ve done some research and noticed you aren’t the original owner. How’d you come about purchasing The Fisherman’s Market?
Answer: That’s another coincidence in life. In 1997 I got a call from one of my oldest friends, Mike West. He was a restaurateur here and had been a longtime customer of the market. He had learned that the market was for sale, and knew I might be looking for a new winter job. At the time I had been crab fishing in the Bering Sea during the winter months, and had recently become a dad. Those two things aren’t really compatible, so he thought we should buy it together, and somehow it worked out that we did.
Question: It’s been yours for some time now; have you made any big changes? And in general, what’s the essence/mission behind of The Fisherman’s Market?
Answer: For the first two years we continued on as just a fish market, but with Mikes’ influence it was only a matter of time before we started cooking food. So we started doing fish and chips from a food cart outside. Eventually, we put the kitchen in and continued to expand our menu. The only I personally have done is network relationships with fishermen and change the way we buy fish. Now our slogan is supporting local fishing families for over 25 years. As for our mission, we continually work on customer service with our staff and strive to make every customers experience a positive one. Most people that walk into our store to buy fish don’t know what they want, so we hope to help them have such a good experience buying fish that they will come back soon, as well as tell their friends. Word of mouth is by far our number one source of advertizing.
Question: I read on your website that you’re still an active commercial fisherman in Alaska, that’s awesome! What’s do you love best about both worlds (being on the boat and being in the market)?
Answer: I’m one of the luckiest guys you’ll meet, because I love my job tremendously. Especially, as a salmon fisherman. Where I fish, Prince William Sound, is one of the most beautiful parts of Alaska. It’s also one of the more laid back fisheries, with calm weather and not so strenuous schedules. It’s a great place for families and I now have both my kid fishing with me. I’ll probably fish until I’m just too old to physically do it. Retirement to me would be selling the market and only fishing and traveling. I’m also lucky to be diversified. Fishing has it’s ups and downs, so the market brings some stability tour lives. But I have to admit I look forward to getting away from the business and the headaches that often come with it. Then I come back in the fall rejuvenated and eager to see my customers.
Question: Moving forward, where do you see The Fisherman’s Market in ten years or so? Any big plans or changes on your mind?
Answer: I recently purchased the building, so now I need to make some improvements. I’m working with an architect, and hopefully, by next fall you’ll see some nice physical improvements, as well as a better dining experience. I’m also looking at buying a food truck to get involved with the breweries in the neighborhood. Other htan that I don’t have any grand plans for growth over the next 10 years.
Question: Just for fun! What’s your favorite fish to catch, and your favorite to eat?
Answer: As for fishing, strangely I’m not much of a sport fisherman. I think of my fishing as the ultimate sport fishing. I drive my boat from a crowsnest 20 off the water, and I can see many of the salmon that I catch. And with the net we use, a seine, the fish can swim out just as easily as they swim in. So when you get 5000 fish in your net it gets pretty exciting.
Question: Just for fun! What’s your favorite fish to catch, and your
favorite to eat?
Answer: As for favorite to eat, having lived in Japan while in college, I love sashimi. My favorites are probably tuna and yellow tail. As for local seafood, I most look forward to the Oregon shrimp season. I love fresh salad shrimp. My typical lunch is a shrimp cocktail with fresh salsa in it.
Now that you’ve got the bait, here’s the menu to get you hooked!
SNACKS & STARTERS
5.00 – Calamari
2.75 or 5.25 – Clam Chowder
5.00 – Clam Strips
5.99 – Crab Cakes
10.00 – Crab Cocktail
7.49 – Drunken Clams
2.75 or 5.25 – Fisherman’s Seafood Salad
3.99 – Market Caesar
1.00 – Oyster Shooters
10.00 – Poki
4.00 – Shrimp Cocktail
2.99 – Mahi-Mahi Taco
2.99 – Sarayo Prawn Taco
5.25 – Small Cod Boat
6.25 – Small Wild Salmon Boat
FISH & CHIPS
7.99 – Bay Scallops and Chips
6.99 – Calamari and Chips
10.99 – Captain’s Platter- Two pieces of cod, four shrimp and 1/4lb clam strips.
6.99 – Chicken Strips
7.49 – Clam Strips and Chips
6.25 – Cod Fish and Chips (Traditional)
12.99 – Halibut Fish and Chips
7.49 – Mahi-Mahi Fish and Chips
8.99 – Oysters and Chips
7.49 – Shrimp and Chips
7.49 – Wild Salmon Fish and Chips
FISH & SEAFOOD SANDWICHES
7.99 – Charbroiled Albacore Sandwich
12.99 – Charbroiled Halibut Sandwich
7.99 – Charbroiled Mahi-Mahi Sandwich
7.99 – Charbroiled Wild Salmon Sandwich
8.99 – Crab Cake Sandwich
8.99 – Oyster Po’ Boy
5.25 – Salmon Burger
Market Price – Teriyaki Tuna Sandwich
Market Price – Crab Dinner
Market Price – Crab Dip Bread Bowl
8.99 – Crab Melt
Market Price – Fresh Fish of the Day
8.99 – Mahi-Mahi Taco Plate
8.99 – Prawn Taco Plate
10.99 – Sauteed Shrimp and Bay Scallop Scampi
9.99 – Sauteed Shrimp Scampi
Market Price – Seafood Lasagna
Market Price – Shrimp Pasta
Market Price – Teriyaki Ahi
The market also offers a variety of tarter sauces, as well as beer and wine to accompany your meal.