Edgartown Seafood Market: Fresh fish, dry wit

From father to son, and onward.

edgartown-seafood-market-wide.JPGDaniel Larsen owns and runs Edgartown Seafood Market with the help of his son — Daniel Jr., or Dan, 38 years old — who has been working at the market for 19 years. The market is open 11 months of the year. It sells fresh fish, and during the summer has a takeout menu. Danny, as the elder Mr. Larsen is known, grew up fishing with his dad, the late Chilmark fisherman Louis Larsen, before opening the market in 1986.

Danny Larsen, here in 1970, has been fishing all his life. (Courtesy Trisha Spring).
Danny Larsen, here in 1970, has been fishing all his life. (Courtesy Trisha Spring).

Danny’s sisters, Betsy Larsen and Kristine Scheffer, run Larsen’s Fish Market in Menemsha. His brother Louis owns Net Result in Vineyard Haven, and his cousin Stanley Larsen owns Menemsha Fish Market. The family’s markets are independent of one another. “We are not related by the wallet,” Danny said, “we are only related by the name.”

In a recent interview, Danny spoke to The Times about losing his dad in March and his mother four years ago. “That adds a new dynamic to my life,” he said. “I’m still sortin’ things. We’ve had a lot of help from family and friends. I’m pretty fortunate.”

Danny is a tall, large man — like his dad — and it is often difficult to tell if he is preoccupied or just moody. Ask him a question, though, and you get to hear one of the driest senses of humor around. He has even been known to crack a smile from time to time.

The Times took the chance and asked him a handful of questions.

When you were fishing, what did you fish for?

What did you think we fished for, king crab? I grew up fishing for all the things you go fishin’ for around Martha’s Vineyard: dragging in winter, swordfishing in the summer, scalloping, lobstering, all of it. I fished before it became fashionable to just fish for one kind of fish, when you had to go after everything to make your whole living out of fishing.

Why did you decide to open the market?

Danny (left) and Albert Fisher.
Danny (right) and Albert Fisher.

I needed something to do, and since I had done it with my father since he opened Larsen’s in Menemsha, that’s what made me decide. My dad built his store the year I got out of high school, 1968. We first opened in a garage down the road where the Depot Corner was, and when we got a chance to buy where we are now, we did, in 1994. I try to hire local kids because I think they need jobs. It’s fun to watch them grow up.

Did you go to school after high school?

I was the only kid in the first grade at the Chilmark school. Oh, this is for the paper? I got my law degree from Harvard.

Your son Dan works for you. What does he do there?

He plans to take over quickly, I hope. It’s what’s keeping me hanging on. Retirement has never worked well for my family. I plan to work for Dan. It will be like a role reversal, I’ll get paid to do practically nothing. I’ll just come in to pick up a check. I would like to travel and spend some time with old friends and my six grandkids. I want to see them play little league, watch them grow up.

Do you close for the winter?

Daniel Larsen, left, with his dad, Dan, behind the counter at Edgartown Seafood Market.
Daniel Larsen, left, with his dad, Dan, behind the counter at Edgartown Seafood Market.

People think we close for the winter, but we only close for about a month to clean and make repairs. We stay open until the day after Valentine’s Day and open on St. Patrick’s Day.

What are your bestsellers?

In the summertime we probably sell more swordfish, a lot of lobsters, a lot of everything really.

Do you have any memorable customers?

Oh no, you’re not doing that to me, no way.

Have you had any funny experiences while in business?

Oh, yeah, I’ve had quite a few. But I’m not a squealer.

Do you have any business goals?

Just tryin’ to make a living, no gimmicks, no contests. We are trying the best we can. What else is there? Every day is a new day.