In 1898 a 16-year-old immigrant with a sixth-grade education and not much more than the clothes on his back landed in Boston. By 1906, this immigrant, Michael Foley, had started a fresh fish company. In 2005, Michael Foley’s great-granddaughter, Laura, together with Peter, her co-owner husband, became the fourth generation to own and operate the Foley Fish Company, the seafood industry’s standard for quality, consistency, and integrity.
Swimming Upstream is the story of four generations of Foley fishmongers, their successes and failures, their talents and foibles. Each generation has met the changing needs of the business in its own way, but in four generations, the goal set by the founder to provide customers only truly fresh, delicious, nutritious seafood has never been compromised.
Swimming Upstream is more than the story of a family and a business. It is an immigrant’s story of Boston in the early 1900s. Michael Foley arrived when “No Irish need apply” signs were posted, but in spite of this his son Francis graduated from Harvard College.
This is the story of the daunting challenges faced by the Foleys in producing a highly perishable product with highly variable pricing, and the many loyal and talented employees who enabled them to meet innumerable challenges through two World Wars, the Depression, resource depletion, and now the Covid pandemic. It is about competing with producers who added water-weight to lower prices, or substitute species to average down costs. It is the story of the vagaries of U.S. fisheries management and Foley Fish’s efforts to support the resource. It is also the story of Foley Fish’s attempt to educate the consumer, and even chefs, on how to care for and prepare fish, and to assure the public that truly fresh fish doesn’t smell fishy.