Grassroots Farm & Foods
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Mike Luken has been at Findlay Market since he was in high school, working part-time at Trefzger's Fish and Poultry stand, a business that went back several generations. Mike liked the work right away, and when he became an electrician after high school, he continued to work at the Market on Saturdays. In 1977, Fred Trefzger retired and Mike left his electrician's job and bought the business. One of his first part-time employees was his younger brother Neil, who would help out after school. Today, Neil owns Charles Bare & Sons Meats at Findlay Market.
Mike specializes in fresh seafood, fish, and poultry, but when he first became a Findlay Market merchant, the available types of truly fresh fish were herring, baby whites, and walleye. Tuna was still something that came from a can and swordfish and grouper had yet to show up on restaurant menus and shopping lists. When grilled fish became popular in the 1980's, Mike decided to try selling some fresh yellowfin tuna, but he never thought its popularity would last.
In addition to his Findlay Market stand, Mike operates a wholesale fish distribution business from a modern refrigerated warehouse on the Market Square. His customers are restaurants, river boats, and other retailers. He spends much of his time at the computer communicating by email to fish suppliers all over the country to keep up with the customer demand for fresh seafood.
Close communication with suppliers is essential because the availability of any given fish can vary from week to week, or even day to day. To offer truly fresh seafood, it's not enough to make sure the products are shipped by air from a coastal region.They have to come from the right coastal region. Grouper, snapper, and mahi mahi come from Miami. Cod, haddock, and sole are from the colder waters of the east coast. The best scallops are off the shores of Boston and the best halibut is Alaskan.
They all sell very well, and the person who sells the most fish for Mike is his brother Kevin. Kevin also worked part-time for the Trefzgers in high school. Kevin is now an attorney, but on Saturdays he's behind the counter of Luken's Fish, Poultry, and Seafood beating Mike at his own game, selling more fish than anyone.
Mike is an active member of the Findlay Market Merchants' Association, which sponsors the Findlay Market Opening Day Parade for the Cincinnati Reds. Mike chaired the parade committee for ten years. Brother Neil has been the chair for the past fifteen years. Mike still puts together a float every year. Anyone who wants can ride it in the parade.