The Fantastic World of the Portuguese Sardine opened its first location outside of Portugal in Times Square in mid-August to celebrate Portuguese culture and its famous maritime delicacy — canned fish.
The flagship store is located on 1592 Broadway at the corner of West 48th Street, with a whimsical and library-themed interior and shelves filled with 20 different varieties of ready-to-eat canned fish and two vegetarian options.
Visitors can expect the traditional cans of skinless and boneless sardines in olive oil and in multiple typical Portuguese recipes, all illustrated with the same colorful designs that visitors to its Portuguese storefronts can find.
The store selections that are available to purchase include roasted sardines with sweet peppers — “the closest you can get from how the Portuguese eat sardines” — smoked and spicy sardines with lemon and tomato, as well as canned octopus, tuna, cod fish, mussels, and salmon.
The store also features its premium Ouro Portugues, an attention-capturing product because of the edible gold flakes sprinkled inside around the canned fish. Prices range from $15 to $44.
The brand, which is owned by Grupo O Valor do Tempo (The Value of Time Group), was born from the desire to celebrate canned fish as a heritage of Portuguese culture.
The first The Fantastic World of the Portuguese Sardine was originally produced by Comur canning factory that was founded in 1942. Grupo O Valor do Tempo acquired Comur in 2015, and opened the first sardine store in 2016. The brand has since grown to 21 stores around Portugal. The Times Square location is the group’s 22nd store and its first outside Portugal.
Joana Quaresma, the project manager for Grupo O Valor do Tempo, told amNewYork Metro that the fish sector in Portugal is historically important for its economy. The group set its sights on continuing the tradition by having the best quality of fish in the market — but also making sure the preparation was all done by hand.
“Our main goal was to bring it back to life and twist it back to how it should be,” Quaresma said. “We wanted to reward these people in the beginning of the supply chain, basically.”
The group then worked on designing a product that was attractive. The group believed that even if you have the best quality and handmade products in the world, if you didn’t know how to sell it, no one would buy it.
“Sardines tend to be associated with this kind of cheap product that you just eat because it’s cheaper and it’s easy to make,” Quaresma said. “We wanted to enhance the product, so we decided to create this fantasy around the sardine.”
Grupo O Valor do Tempo decided to open its first store outside of Portugal in Time Square because the company believed it to be “the best place to get everyone’s attention.”
“It’s the stage of the world, and there was no better place to be,” Quaresma said. “We’ve been getting customers from all over the world because it’s Time Square, but New Yorkers and Americans have been really loving the product and our concept.”
Even the music inside of the Times Square location was chosen with thought behind it. The group chose composer John Philip Sousa, who is known for his American military march music. Sousa himself has roots in Portugal too — his father was the son of a Portuguese couple.
“We kind of wanted to show that alliance between the U.S. and Portugal through that,” Quaresma said.
The group has expressed its excitement gathering reactions from the customers at the Times Square flagship. While there aren’t any concrete plans to expand to other U.S. cities, there is always a possibility. For now, the canned sardine is the latest star to join the ranks of Broadway’s businesses.
“Our goal is always to enhance the fish and make it a main character,” Quaresma said. “Now we brought our whole collection here.”