Our History by Mark Button
In early 1969 Eddie Button, my father, started a wholesale jellied eel and shellfish business in a very small shop in Old Montague Street in East London. He built a successful small business supplying shellfish stalls in East London.
Barney Gritzman was one of Eddie’s biggest customers; he owned a retail stall in Goulston Street in Aldgate opposite the more famous Tubby Isaacs stall. Not many people know that Barney was the brother of Solomon Gritzman – the owner of Tubby Isaacs. Barney also operated a wholesale business from larger premises in Chamber Street in East London.When Barney decided to retire in 1970 Eddie took over the business. Eddie took over the name ‘Barneys’, the business operated from Chamber Street until October 2019.
In 1979 Tubby Isaacs sold their wholesale business which was based in the old Billingsgate Fish Market, to Barneys. This gave the Barneys a trading base inside Britain’s premier fish market which it kept until the fish market relocated in the early 1980s.
I joined the business in the early 1980s, I learnt all aspects of the business from Eddie. I became managing director of Barneys after my father died at the end of 2008.
The business is very different to the one my father started all those years ago. People’s tastes have changed, a far greater range of products is now available and people are far more health conscious. Having said all of this the principles of running a successful fish and shellfish business are still the same; work starts at 4am come rain or shine, preparing eels is still a hard, time consuming and extremely skilled business, the customer is always right (well mostly) and quality is everything.
Barneys moved from Chamber Street and is now fully based at Billingsgate Fish Market.
There are usually eight full-time members of staff operating at our Billingsgate shop and factory, Mark, Ernie, Simon, Alan B, Harry, Richard, and Alan Q. We also a new member of Staff, Charis who works behind the scenes ensuring that the operation of Barneys goes smoothly.