A long time ago New York seemed to be filled with unique and quirky butchers. Men in bloody aprons manhandling meat and taking names. It often seems like everyone who grew up in New York has a story or five about theirs (ours was Mike the Butcher, seen briefly in this vintage clip). But what becomes of an old-school butcher in the world of Whole Paycheck and foodies? They reinvent themselves, if the sweet story of Jeffrey the Butcher is any indication.
Jeffrey's Meat Market is, he says, the last original tenant in the Essex Street Market and until recently it was not having a good go of it. According to owner Jeffrey Ruhalter, whose grandfather opened the butcher shop, times have been tough. In quick succession nine restaurants he supplied to went out of business, he had to lay off three of his seven butchers and closing up shop was looking likely. So he did what any New Yorker would do: he went to therapy to find himself. And? As he told the Times, "I’m someone’s butcher. That’s what I am. My grandfather and father hated being butchers, but I love it. It’s not over till the fat lady sings, and then I’ll kick her in the teeth."
Since he picked himself back up Ruhalter has gone on the offensive—walking door to door at neighborhood restaurants introducing himself and picking up clients, adding more butchery classes (including a popular new one on sausage making), and offering prepared food you just need to toss in the oven. Those changes, along with the recently extended hours at the Essex Street Market, mean that for now at least Jeffrey's Meat Market is staying in business. Want to check out Jeffrey's wares but can't get to the Lower East Side before 7 p.m.? The store is online, too.