Vote will determine new home for Wholey's Fish Market signature sign

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A city with three rivers that fell in love with a giant rubber duck ought to be able to find a home for a fish.

That's what the owners of Strip District landmark Wholey's Fish Market and Mayor-elect Bill Peduto are hoping for by asking Pittsburghers to nominate a location to move the market's signature smiling fish.

The emblem was erected nearly 25 years ago on a nearby building, a former cold storage warehouse the company used for years. It will be relocated because the new owners plan to convert that space into a 144-unit apartment complex. The market will not be affected.

"We all saw what a duck can do to bring this city together," Mr. Peduto said at a news conference Monday outside the store. "We have a fish that's been smiling on this city for 25 years, so Pittsburgh, where should we put the fish?"

Wholey's owners will choose the location that garners the most nominations from the public. The sign must stay within city limits, and the property owner must give his or her permission. Mr. Peduto pledged to help with zoning.

The sign was erected in 1989 as a Christmas gift from warehouse employees to Robert Wholey Sr. He and his son, Sam, had just returned from a trip to Hong Kong and were impressed its by skyscrapers topped with a lighted animal, said Robert Wholey & Co. president Jim Wholey.

The sign kept blowing off the building, so Sargent Electric Co. helped install it. It holds $16,000 worth of eco-friendly LED bulbs, Mr. Wholey said, and measures 100 feet wide by 60 feet high.

"That's part of Pittsburgh," Mr. Wholey said. "That's part of the fabric. And we owe it to Pittsburgh to let them decide where that sign's going to go."

The smiling fish will follow the same criteria as the city's murals, and enjoy special rights as a piece of art, Mr. Peduto said.

The campaign ends Jan. 31.

How to nominate:

* Stop in at Wholey's and drop a nomination in one of the red boxes

* "Like" Wholey's on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @wholeys. Post a nomination using the hashtag #smilingfish -- and share your favorite memory of the sign

* Email a nomination to

Molly Born:, 412-263-1944 or on Twitter @borntolede. First Published December 23, 2013 11:23 AM

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