Where have all the butchers gone?

This past weekend, Project for Public Spaces’ Kelly Verel, Steve Davies and I taught our two-day “How To Create Succesful Markets” class which included a tour of five markets on Saturday in NYC.

The Essex Street Market (established by Mayor LaGuardia in 1939) is always a popular stop and although we knew longtime butcher Jeffrey Ruhalter recently left the resurgent Essex Street Market it was sad to see his empty cases and silent stall. Jeffrey had always regaled our classes with a loving rendition of his family’s history in the Lower East Side and how much the market meant to them. I remember meeting his father in the early 1980’s when the market was nearly down and out. It has come back beautifully in the last decade with reinvestment from the City and energetic new vendors. Jeffrey we miss you!

Another longtime butcher – Harry Ochs and Sons from the Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia also closed shop recently and relocated to a smaller neighborhood market. This is another sad loss – the Och’s started at Reading Terminal Market in 1906 and were one of the leading families of the market with a loyal following – they too will be missed by many.

The independent market butcher – once a mainstay – and for some a stepping stone to great fortunes (Astors, Wideners, etc started as market butchers) is at a low point and we hope the growing interest in ‘post-industrial farm butchers’ will usher in a new era.

On a heartening note – one of our market training class attendees from Halifax, NS, Chris de Waal is planning to be a ‘post industrial farm butcher’ (his phrase) – we wish him much success.

Photo top – Jeffrey Ruhalter’s meat stall at the Essex Street Market, NYC
Bottom – Harry Ochs Sr and Harry Ochs Jr – Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia

May 23, 2011