Patricia Branch (left) and Cindy Plumb in front of Pajo’s Fish and Chips.
Photo courtesy David Hartono
Pajo’s just keeps swimming
By Samuel Cheng
Published 2:34 PDT, Fri March 25, 2022
Last Updated: 3:29 PDT, Mon April 18, 2022
In the third part of a series on Richmond’s business roots, we share the story of Pajo’s Fish and Chips.
Pajo’s Fish and Chips, located in the heart of Steveston, is a renowned local spot that has stood the test of time for nearly four decades.
The family-owned business was founded in 1985 by Patricia Branch and her former business partner, Joan. The name “Pajo’s” is a combination of the first names of the two founders.
The idea of opening up a floating restaurant in the 1980s was inspired by Barb’s Fish and Chips in Victoria, which Branch visited in 1984.
Branch’s initial goal was to prove to herself that she was capable of opening the first floating restaurant in Steveston Village. After 37 years of hard work, determination, and perseverance, Pajo’s has become a household name and an iconic spot for tourists.
Along with its signature fish and chips, Pajo’s also offers burgers, tacos, poutine, fries, and soft drinks.
Being a solely family-run business is the key distinction that sets Pajo’s apart from competitors. The feeling of belonging and the values that it sees in its team act as the backbone of the business.
Challenges could arise at any given moment on a day-to-day basis, especially having to deal with new pandemic safety guidelines and regulations.
“As an owner and manager in the ‘new COVID normal’ (it) has been especially hard (to find) the right fit for our team members and maintain our decades-old quality for generations to come,” says Branch’s daughter Cindy Plumb, president and chief executive officer of Pajo’s.
COVID restrictions forced Pajo’s to temporarily close its airport location. However, the team has stood its ground and wants to continue serving the community.
Branch’s proudest moment was when Pajo’s reached $500 in sales on its opening day in 1985.
“Fast forward 37 years to 2021 (when) Pajo’s was inducted (into) the Richmond Chamber of Commerce Hall of Fame. (That) was a great honour and one of our proudest moments,” Plumb adds.
Pajo’s has actively supported grassroots community initiatives and fundraising. Tourism Richmond and Steveston Merchants Association are among the local organizations that are deeply connected with the business.
“We take pride in supporting the Richmond and Port Moody Fire Fighters, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and sport, social, and student associations across the Lower Mainland, which brings Pajo’s closer to the community by giving back and supporting meaningful causes,” says Plumb.
Pajo’s has stayed successful for decades by keeping employee morale and customer satisfaction high.
“Listening (to) and working together with our team members (allows us) to reach the same goal of being a part of our customers’ adventure,” says Plumb. “We will always strive to treat our team as we would have treated ourselves and have fun while working at Pajo’s.”
She stresses the importance of having a blueprint and preparation.
“Do your homework. Don’t think that because you think (something is) a good idea, everyone else will,” says Plumb.
Pajo’s Fish and Chips still follows the values of “CHIPS” today: continuous improvement, having fun, integrity, people first, and sustainability.
“It is very important to us all that everyone at Pajo’s feels like they are part of a bigger family and somewhere that they themselves belong. Everyone, everywhere, everyday,” says Plumb.
Photo courtesy David Hartono