After 45 years of business, Detroit’s Eastern Market Seafood Company is preparing to close its doors on Saturday, February 29. John Janevski, who’s spent every weekend since he was 12 years old working Saturday market, announced the closing in a post to Facebook on Sunday.
Reached by Eater, representatives major Eastern Market real estate holder Sanford Nelson, confirmed that the 5,000-square-foot property was purchased from the Janevski family by FIRM Real Estate last year.
In an interview at his storefront today, Janevski reflected on his life running a small business in Eastern Market and witnessing the recent changes in the neighborhood. John Janevski’s father Carlo Janevski bought Eastern Market Seafood Company around 1975 when it was located across the freeway overpass near Gratiot Central Market and in the early 1980s relocated the business to its current location at 2456 Market Street. In the mid-1990s John Janevski and his brother took over for their father as the primary operators. “On Saturdays, the rest of the family would help — out my kids and my brother’s kids would help out,” Janevski says. “Three generations have worked here.”
Eastern Market Seafood Company is known for selling frozen seafood and other pantry items in its sprawling store, but has also developed a following over the years for its so-called Old World Sandwiches — a pita pocket sandwich filled with cheese, multiple types of sliced and smoked sausage, lettuce, and mustard. Janevski says the sausage sandwiches were an inherited business from the previous building owner, a sausage company.
Janevski says he and his older brother had been looking for a long time to sell the business as they prepared for retirement. “We couldn’t find nobody. We couldn’t find no takers,” he says. However, after a chat with a customer from Friedman Real Estate, he was able to meet with Sanford Nelson and quickly come to terms to sell the building and the business. Nelson agreed to allow Eastern Market Seafood to continue to operating for nearly a year in the building rent free and avoided doing work on the property that disrupted the business.
Janevski says he and his brother are looking forward to moving on from the store. “A lot of people [think] having your own business, it’s easy. No, it’s not. Having your own business is very hard. It’s very difficult. It’s very long hours,” he says. “So I just want to relax, take care of my dad. He’s 88. He needs assistance and, we’ll go from there. But it’s time to move on.”
The Janevski family is currently winding down business by placing smaller seafood orders locally rather than purchasing in bulk from the East and West Coasts as they traditionally did.
Once they’ve moved out, Nelson plans to bring in construction crews to begin the renovation process on the nearly 120-year-old building. He estimates it will cost at least $1 million for non-aesthetic improvements including “significant” lead and asbestos abatement; mechanical, electrical, and plumbing repairs; repairs to a caved in floor; a new roof; and facade improvements.
As part of the terms of the sale, Nelson plans to bring in a new business to open a seafood market under the same name — possibly with a restaurant on the premises. “We’re exploring different opportunities, but the one thing that we’re committed to is that there will be a retail seafood shop continuing to operate in this space,” Nelson says. FIRM is currently in talks with several perspective operators who might take over portions of or all of the building. “We are urging that new owner to continue to try to tradition of the old world sandwiches,” Nelson says.
The second floor, which has been vacant since Eastern Market Seafood began occupying the space, may be returned to a USDA-compliant facility for food processing. FIRM is also considering reopening a storefront on the Riopelle side of the property, which is currently cinder blocked shut.
Nelson estimates that the construction work will take roughly six months to complete. As for Janevski he says he’s looking forward to having his Saturdays back. “[I] feel very, very at peace and excited to move on,” he says.
As for the rapidly changing market district, Janevski says he okay with it. “It’s going to change. It’s not me or you or anybody else can do. It’s going to change over time. And it hasn’t changed over time. There was warehouses, there was meat packing companies here — they’re all gone. It’s more smaller retail stores now,” he says. “I think change is good. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s going to happen eventually. So yeah, you embrace it. I got no problem embracing that.”