Meet Schwarze Seafoods
Published : April 26, 2017
A market favourite, loved by customers for over 80 years...
Dennis Schwarze is a third generation trader who personally handpicks the highest quality seafood from the wholesale market each market day. Schwarze seafood range is 90% Australian and 10% New Zealand sourced, and includes fresh oysters, smoked trout, Atlantic salmon, live mussels and pippies, prawns, live mud crabs and spanner crabs, fresh calamari, octopus, cuttlefish, squid, a large variety of fish fillets, cutlets and whole fish.
Dennis’s story begins in 1930 when his grandmother Alice and her sister Joyce purchased an existing butcher shop at the Dandenong Market and then reinvented it into a Fishmonger. Prior to their purchase at the market, Dennis’ grandmother owned a fish and chip shop in Prahran. Alice & Joyce worked at the market every Tuesday and the rest of the week in Prahran.
Back in the 1930’s Dandenong Market was a thriving stock and cattle market, operating only on a Tuesday until 2pm. Farmers would come and purchase and sell their stock and at the same time they would buy their weekly meat and vegetable purchases.
Dennis’s father Merv spent a lot of time as a youngster helping his mother and aunty at the shop. In 1947 he married his wife Pat, and together they took over the running of the shop where they not only sold fresh seafood but they also cooked fish and chips. Pat would make homemade fish cakes and they were so popular that people would queue up just to buy them.
Like his father, Dennis also spent much of his childhood at the market, during school holidays he and a former trader Raymond, would spend their time playing at the footy field (now the Aldi carpark) and visiting the stockyards. Dennis spent a lot of time chatting to the traders and he has fond memories of one particular trader who would bring his pet monkey to the market. The monkey was trained and although in collar and chain, would sit on his owners shoulder and bring much delight to the market customers. Dennis also remembers buying dim sims from one of our existing traders, Cindy Choy’s uncle, back in those days he would cook his dim Sims using a kerosene cooker.
Dennis left school at 16 and started an apprentice as a pastry cook. The market was getting busier and Dennis’s father realised he would need the extra help, Dennis jumped at the opportunity to join the family business.
Prior to Saturday trading, both father and son, would work full time at the Wholesale Fish Markets in Kensington starting at 2am and finishing at 7am, as well as trading at the market. On the market days they would load their refrigerated van with fresh seafood and sell their fresh catch from their market shop.
In the 1970’s Saturday trading started up, the stock/cattle market had ceased trading at the market and moved to a new site. Both Merv and Dennis stopped working full time at the Fish Markets to concentrate on Dandenong market, although they would still get up early enough to buy their seafood from the Fish market on Market days.
When, Merv passed away in 1992 and Pat decided to retire, Dennis took over the running of the shop. By this time the redevelopment had occurred and the fish shop had moved to a new site and cooked fish and chips were no longer part of the menu.
In 2010 another market redevelopment occurred and Schwarze Seafood eventually moved to their new current site in the Meat, Fish and Deli Hall.
After 40 years in the business, Dennis has seen a lot of changes in the market. He has seen traders come and go, has witnessed the influence of Jewish traders in the market during the 80’s and 90’s selling high-quality upmarket garments from their factories, traders from his childhood, selling pets including cats, dogs and birds and most of all his has seen the structural differences from the old style market to the current day.
Dennis still has a very loyal customer base. Some of his customers have been buying their fish for years, including one customer who has been shopping at Schwarze Seafood for 62 years. Unfortunately for Dennis, his two daughters are not so keen to continue on the family business, having secured their own careers in saddlery and as a personal trainer. However his niece Gabby currently at university does help out in the shop on a Friday or Saturday.
Dennis sees his personal success in the market due to the good rapport he and his family has built with his customers, and from the experience and knowledge he has gained from his work in the fish markets. He knows quality and is able to source the best products for his customers.