Fishy Behavior by Wegmans? Osakana Takes on Sakanaya

Alexa Paladino

A small business owner has taken the supermarket chain Wegmans to court, alleging that its “fish market unlike any other” is actually just like his.[1] Wegmans proudly advertises the uniqueness of the “Sakanaya” market at its new Astor Place location, much to the dismay of Yuji Haraguchi, the founder and owner of “Osakana,” a local fish market situated just a couple of blocks away.[2] In February, Mr. Haraguchi filed suit in New York accusing Wegmans and a few of its business associates of fraud, trademark infringement, unfair competition, breach of contract, and more—claims which Wegmans argues are fully “without merit.”[3]


Mr. Haraguchi alleges that Sakanaya bears “an uncanny and confusingly similar resemblance” to his store, particularly given similarities in the typography of their names (represented in the image below) and their English translations.[4] Osakana means “fish” and its logo has “Japanese fish market” below the name, whereas Sakanaya directly translates to “fish market.” Mr. Haraguchi has a basis to suspect that this may not be a coincidence: last year, he entered into purportedly exclusive negotiations with Wegmans’ “fish broker” over a potential purchase of Osakana, signed a nondisclosure agreement, and handed over Osakana’s confidential information and trade secrets to representatives and affiliates of Wegmans.[5] According to Osakana employees, Wegmans’ representatives “visited Osakana for training purposes and observed the way in which Mr. Haraguchi’s employees operate the business as a whole — including how the fish is cut and sold by the quarter pound, and how the sushi and sashimi boxes are put together.”[6] Mr. Haraguchi alleges that the Wegmans affiliates soon pulled out of negotiations (Wegmans disputes this) and opened up Sakanaya just a few weeks later. Further, Mr. Haraguchi has reason to suspect that Sakanaya has indeed engendered confusion in the marketplace: in his now-viral petition, he describes finding out about Sakanaya’s opening because somebody sent him a message saying “Yuji! Congratulations on opening OSAKANA in Wegman.”[7] Mr. Haraguchi’s lengthy petition has gathered 5,588 signatures so far, “[striking] a nerve with many who say a large chain damaging a small business is all too familiar.”[8]

But not so fast, says Wegmans—the parties do not agree on the facts regarding who pulled out of negotiations first and when Wegmans actually came up with its “unique concept for [its] seafood and sushi program.”[9] Wegmans describes having worked with Uoriki, a high-end fishmonger and retailer in Tokyo (and another co-defendant in Mr. Haraguchi’s lawsuit), to develop Sakanaya in 2022, before ever meeting with Mr. Haraguchi.[10] Wegmans’ codefendants have filed counterclaims against Mr. Haraguchi’s “baseless and retaliatory” allegations, which they see as “nothing more than an attempt by Mr. Haraguchi to unjustly enrich himself by smearing the defendants in the media and online, hoping to force a settlement.”[11] Lastly, Wegmans argues, simply having the Japanese word for “fish” (Sakana) in both names is where the similarity between these two businesses ends.

Whether or not Mr. Haraguchi’s legal claims survive, he has cause for concern about competition from Sakanaya. In March, he explained that Osakana’s sales had gone down 30 percent since the opening of Wegmans on Astor Place.[12] In the spirit of supporting a local, minority-owned business with about fifteen employees (cf. Wegmans’ 53,000 employees and 100+ stores), perhaps JLA readers may consider stopping by Osakana to enjoy this much-loved neighborhood spot and hear the tale of fish market intrigue for themselves.[13]


[1] Sakanaya 魚屋 (Fish Market), Wegmans, [] [].

[2] Emily Rahal, Wegmans Denies East Village Sushi Shop’s Fraud Suit, Moves To Dismiss Case, Pix11 News (Mar. 11, 2024), [] [].

[3] James Barron, Wegmans Fish Shop Stole My Concept, Merchant Claims, N.Y. Times (Mar. 12, 2024), [].

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Karla Alindahao, Wegmans Accused of Stealing Japanese Chef’s Ideas in NYC Lawsuit, Food & Wine (Feb. 27, 2024), [] []. Osakana’s general manager, Jackie Ngo, described these visits further: “They did have people come into the store and, like, watch us work . . . The employees instructed the people from Wegmans on what to do—they were teaching them and everything. And then Wegmans took that information and then just opened up Sakanaya after like a couple of weeks or like a month of just ignoring Yuji’s emails.” Id.

[7] Yuji Haraguchi, Shut Down Wegman’s Sakanaya / Fraud, Breach of Contracts, Trademark Infringement and More, (Jan. 19, 2024), [] [].

[8] Rahal, supra note 2.

[9] Id.

[10] Barron, supra note 3.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] See Changedotorg, TikTok (Mar. 4, 2024), [] [] (a video of Mr. Haraguchi describing his business and why he started the petition).