RESTAURANTS

The Fish Store hopes to keep Boston Fish legacy alive

The Fish Store owner Lenore Zoll talks to a customer at the newly opened restaurant, 4342 16th Avenue SW, in southwest C
The Fish Store owner Lenore Zoll talks to a customer at the newly opened restaurant, 4342 16th Avenue SW, in southwest Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Thursday, March 12, 2020. Zoll was the manager of Boston Fish near downtown Cedar Rapids, opened the new seafood restaurant to carry on the tradition of the former business. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
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Lenore Zoll worked for months to get her restaurant The Fish Store open on March 6. Then came Gov. Kim Reynold’s Tuesday declaration of a statewide public health disaster emergency, mandating all restaurants switch to carryout, drive-through or delivery service only, to fight the spread of coronavirus.

“I didn’t work this hard to only be open a week and two days,” Zoll said in a text message to The Gazette. “If the community comes out to support me, they will definitely leave here with fish and gratitude, is all I have to say. They fought for me and the Boston Fish and stood behind me, and I’m gonna make sure they have their fish.”

Like restaurants across the state, she is hoping enough customers still order carryout to keep her lights on. Doing so means carrying on a nearly 78 year legacy — The Fish Store is Zoll’s new iteration of Boston Fish, which closed in May. Boston Fish first opened in 1942, and Zoll’s family ran it at 80 Fifth St. SE, Cedar Rapids, since they purchased it in the 1990s. Her uncle, Joseph Zoll, sold it to restaurateur Kory Nanke in 2019. After renovations, he reopened it as Bostons with a revamped menu.

“I started to realize there wasn’t anything of the original Boston Fish there. The menu, the atmosphere, it wasn’t there anymore,” Zoll said. “I had promised the community we were coming back.”

She considered opening a food truck before she learned the space that previously housed Vivian’s was opening up at 4342 16th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids.

The Gazette sat down with Zoll last week, before the public health order came through, to talk about The Fish Store and how her business is both something new and something old.

“Food is memories to me. When you have a bite of something, you remember being a kid and where you were when you had it,” she said. “That’s what this is to this community. I want to honor that, but also have new memories.”

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To that end, she’s kept most of the old Boston Fish recipes — fish sandwiches, and fish baskets with walleye, perch, catfish and cod, plus shrimp and clams, but added new options, like hush puppies, bread pudding, Cajun dishes like crayfish, and a “hot fish” spicy option.

A regular customer, Will Gaines, 42, of Cedar Rapids, followed Zoll to her new location. He stopped in last March 11 and she immediately recognized him and knew his order — a fish and cheese sandwich.

“I’ve been going to Boston Fish since I was a kid,” he said.

He lived in the Oakhill Jackson neighborhood as a kid and recalled riding his bike to the restaurant with his friends, where they could get fish sandwiches for just $1.35 (now they’re $5 to $6).

“You felt like that was a cool deal, you were a kid but you could order at a restaurant,” he said. “I was sad when it closed, and I’m glad you opened it back up.”

Zoll has her own childhood memories of the business. She started working with her aunt and uncle at Boston Fish when she was 12 or 13 years old. Her aunt, Suzette Zoll, died in 2017. Her photo hangs on the wall, along with other photos and memorabilia from throughout the restaurant’s history.

“I wanted people to feel like this was home again,” Zoll said. “It’s the community that is Boston Fish. I wanted to remind people of that and where we’ve been and what we’ve been through.”

She hopes they can continue to pull through this current moment, and keep serving fish sandwiches for a long time to come.

“I’m just ready to keep meeting the next generation,” she said. “Now people that grew up eating here are bring their kids in.”

Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

If You Go

l What: The Fish Store

l Where: 4342 16th Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids

l Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday

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l Details: (319) 200-5004, facebook.com/TheFishLenoreZoll

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