Our History

Big-Men Issacson & Stein Fish Co is a third generation family business that has been at the same location for over 80 years. The company was originally founded by Lou Isaacson and Willie and Ike Stein. In 1958, Ben Willner and Milton Block bought the company from its current location at 800 W. Fulton. The company has thrived there ever since. The company is proud to be the oldest fresh fish wholesaler in the city.

Ben Willner’s father Harry Willner owned Willner’s Green Bay Fish Co., which used to be one of the largest fresh fish wholesalers in Chicago. Ben began working at his father’s company when he was 17 years old. Harry Willner’s company was located on the old Union Ave. Fish Market, which was torn down to make way for the Kennedy Expressway.

Milton’s father Max Block owned M. Block and Sons. M. Block and Sons purchased fish from various wholesalers and sold it to retail outlets throughout the city. Milton began working for his father when he was 21. M. Block and Sons regularly purchased fish from Willner’s Green Bay Fish Co., which led to a lasting friendship between Milton Block and Ben Willner.

“When they tore down the Union Fish Market, we were both left without a home,” Block recalled. “That’s when we purchased Isaacson and Stein.” Block and Willner credited the success of Isaacson and Stein to their appreciation of their customers’ needs and to their excellent customer service.

Fish-1981Sherwin Willner, the current owner of Issacson & Stein Fish Co and resident fish expert, transformed the business into a state-of-the-art facility. He started working for the company in 1967 at the age of 17. Originally, all the fish was shipped in by rail. Over time, rail transport was replaced by airplane shipments. This new efficiency enabled the company to receive daily shipments of fish from Greece, Brazil, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and all over the Atlantic Ocean.

On a weekly basis, Issacson & Stein Fish Co receives shipments of 10 tons of fish. All the employees at Issacson & Stein Fish Co, most of whom have been with the company for over 20 years, match Sherwin’s dedication to the business. Our customers share that loyalty, and have patronized the business for just as long.