Teach a Man to Fish, You Feed Him For a Lifetime: Kram Fish Market

November 23, 2018

 

Ed Kram is 72 years old and full of charm.                                                                  

 

When we came in to request an interview for our Elder Wisdom Project he says, “Sure!", then asks my sons, 

 

"Hey, have you have ever seen a man walk on water?”

 

They really don’t know what to say at first…only the oldest, 18, has heard this biblical reference.

They both reply no.

 

Mr. Kram says, “Really?? Watch this!”

 

He proceeds to the sink and turns it on, catches a pool of water in both hands and throws it on the floor. Then…he walked on it!

 

“There, now you can say you’ve seen a man walk on water.”

He says affirmatively.

 

This was just one of the more endearing moments we experienced during our visit. In fact, this was one of the most wonderful interviews and visits we have done so far. Not only because of Mr. Kram, but the entire Kram Market team, or as I like to call them, the new 'Kram Fam'. We were greeted by Mr. Kram himself, but Missie, Roger, Dava and Pumpkin were so inviting and so sweet to my family that we didn’t want to leave!

 

I have been to Kram’s Fish Market several times by now, and all of them have consistently been of the kindest souls I’ve met in St. Louis. I believe Mr. Kram has an eye for good people, which is vital as a business owner, as you must lead and build trust in your team.

Because the story of Kram Market has been previously told, and our project focus in on Elder Wisdom and, of course, the history of St. Louis, we were interested in hearing Mr. Kram’s perspective on the history of the area and the changes he has seen. In our work with the unhoused citizens at nearby Biddle Shelter, we have seen many solutions suggested, and others implemented by grassroots organizations, in solving the housing and mental illness crises in St. Louis.

 

We wanted to know if Mr. Kram felt that the proverb:
 

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.

Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

 

could be applied towards the struggle. If alleviating poverty by encouraging self-sufficiency as a basic principle of survival, might start at place like Kram Market.

 

“They could do what my grandfather, Louis, did. He came here from Russia for the World’s Fair and connected with the fisherman in Graffton."  He explained that the fisherman were great at catching the fish, but had no idea how to market.

 

“So he said, ‘If you catch it, I’ll sell it!’ ”

 

 

Louis Kram (1872-1936) got a wagon and drove around collecting and selling fresh fish in the neighborhoods of St. Louis, and at Biddle Market. He married Yetta, started a family including Mr. Kram’s father, Paul, and soon opened the Kram Fish Market at 1307 Biddle Street.

 

 

After Russian soldiers killed his brother, and his brother's wife and baby, he spent his life savings sending money to his 6 surviving nieces and nephews until 1921, when he took 4 trips to Poland to get them. His nephew Harry worked alongside him in the fish business.

 

 

Louis Kram died before Ed was born, but 115 years later his grandson and the “new” Kram Fam, still carry on the family business. Pearl and Paul, Ed’s parents, like other Jewish immigrants, raised the family in University City, where Mr. Kram still lives. Mr. Kram has two sons, however, both have moved into more modern and lucrative industries.

 

I asked Mr. Kram the main difference he notices in the area, and specifically in the residents. “Back then, there was a lot of alcohol. So there were a lot of alcoholics around. Now, its drugs.” he says.

“And the crime is different. There used to be ‘softer’ crimes.”

 

Although, Mr. Kram is only 70, I asked him what I usually ask our Elder Wisdom participants - if they have any regrets.

 

"We made a lot of mistakes in the business, like not going into frozen. But other than that, no."

 

He is proud of his family legacy and now, proud and confident in his staff and his sons' futures.  

 

 

 

Kram Fish Market is open Wednesday through Friday from 9 am to 4 pm

& 10:30 am - 4 pm on Saturdays.

 

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