Sole man Paul and the ones that haven’t got away!

BY day, Paul Phillips sells stacks of sole, heaps of halibut and boxes of bass as a leading Oldham fish merchant.

By night and before lockdown, Paul could be often found blowing his saxophone with top party band Stax of Soul UK.

No stranger to Saddleworth audiences with a group formed nearly 40 years ago, locals are now being reeled in by the quality of his produce.

While others have found trading tough during the Covid-19 crisis, Paul’s business, soon to celebrate its 25th anniversary, has landed new customers.

They range from Hale in Trafford to York and many places in between, hooked by the friendly family firm’s ‘top notch’ produce.

And as wholesale opportunities closed down because of the pandemic, Paul cast his net closer to home and opened his town centre base in Barry Street to retail trade.

“We started off nearly a quarter of a century ago, doing door to door deliveries,” explained Paul.

“We then went to the markets before branching out into wholesale.

Now, since restaurants closed, we have started retailing and it has really taken off.

“We have had good feedback off everyone because we don’t scrimp on quality.

“Everything we buy is top notch. If it is not, we are not interested and gets knocked back straight away.

“We have a great reputation with our restaurants. That is now extending to our retail customers, including a lot from the Saddleworth area.

“We have even had people come from Hale on a semi-regular basis to get our fish.

“Because we supplied restaurants prior to lockdown, we offer customers proper recipes for their fish and can even advise the best way to store it.

“We are getting inundated. We will definitely carry on doing this once we return to some sort of normality.”

Despite the downturn in the economy and uncertainty over Brexit too, it’s definitely not all doom and gloom.

“We have started to see some produce we wouldn’t normally see, partly due to lockdown and also because of Brexit,” added Paul.

“A lot of the big hake landed in Scotland normally goes straight to Spain where it makes more money.

“But we have been able to get our hands on it now and it has been fabulous.”

Customers have also enjoyed some high-end halibut thanks to a 70-year-old Norwegian angler.

“We were offered this 180lbs halibut caught by a chap fishing for coley off a pier,” explained Paul, who also plays his sax with the Suburban Swing Orchestra.

“As he hauled in this coley, the halibut came up out of the water and snaffled the fish

“He couldn’t pull it in because it was so heavy and moved down to a pier where six guys waded into the water to land it.

“All he was doing was fishing for his tea and instead he received over £1,200 for the halibut.”

• If you want to net a prize catch for tea visit www.facebook.com/PPhillipsFish/ for more details.

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