BY MARK HOUSER
Angela Earley ‘05 must have been paying attention in her business classes. Even before graduating, she already had a management job supervising staff at the bar where she worked, plus a couple of investment properties.
But it took more than business acumen to open a fresh seafood place in the Strip District, just up the road from the legendary Wholey's. It took raw courage.
“We got a little bit lucky,” Earley says of Penn Avenue Fish Company, the hip eatery and fish market launched by her and business partner Henry Dewey in 2007. “Business wasn't always as good as it is now. We just work really hard.”
With its artsy, industrial vibe and creative menu utilizing some of the freshest seafood in the city, the Penn Avenue business draws a big lunch crowd for all-you-can-eat fish tacos and sushi, deep sea chili, scallop pizzas, offbeat Lenten options like crab and prawn lasagna, and a slew of gourmet sandwiches like the “Sneaky Pete,” grilled salmon on ciabatta with avocado and hearts of palm. Perched on crushed ice nearby are snappers, flounders, and other creatures of the deep that shoppers can buy for their own feasts at home.
“We always aim to have the best tuna, the kind that will light up the room with a bright red and magenta,” Earley says. “We get them whole, and Henry will break down a 150-pound fish — cut it right at the counter. People stop eating to watch.”
Even more than accounting and computers, the most valuable skill Earley says she learned at college was communicating. “I'm pretty shy; before RMU, I was kind of secluded and I would stay in my shell,” she says. “The communications skills program was the most beneficial thing for me, because it taught me to feel more comfortable speaking to people, which is something you need in business, whether the people I'm speaking to are my employees or I'm building relationships with vendors.”
Earley and Dewey met at Nakama in the South Side, when she was tending bar and he was making sushi. When she asked him for advice on starting her own restaurant, he confided that he was dreaming of opening a fish market. They teamed up, and the formula seems to be working. Penn Avenue Fish Co. opened its second restaurant in autumn, a block from Market Square on Forbes Avenue.
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