2016 Village Award Winner: East Village Meat Market
Off the Grid is highlighting the 2016 Village Awards winners in the lead up to the June 14th Annual Meeting & Award Ceremony. Click here for more information about the event and to RSVP. Read about other awardees here.
The East Village Meat Market was opened in 1970 by Julian Baczynsky as a meat market but quickly morphed into an Eastern European community center. The neighborhood, at the time, had a large Ukrainian and Polish population which welcomed a store that featured the foods traditional to their countries of origin.
Julian Baczynsky emigrated from the Ukrain to the United States in 1949. In 1955 he opened his first store on Avenue B and 10th Street, and later he and a partner opened a store on First Avenue. In 1970 he and his partner parted ways and he started his own store at 139 Second Avenue with the goal to have a store that would preserve Eastern European culture.
Today, the mix of customers is about 25% Ukrainian, 10% Polish, with the rest mostly East Village denizens. Shelves are filled with products such as borscht mix and cherry jam that are imported straight from Poland or the Ukraine and on weekends there is a large table in the middle of the store with prepared foods. But the store is mostly known for its smoked meats and sausages. At the rear of the store is the prep area which includes five large German machines from the 1950’s – a meat grinder, slicer, mixer, chopper and sausage maker. Additionally there are two large stainless boxes that are used to cook the kasha that is an ingredient of kibbeh as well as two floor-to-ceiling smokers. EV Meat Market also cures its own hams which are sourced from the Hatfield company which obtains their hogs from small family-owned farms which follow a high level of animal welfare including nutrition, exercise and living conditions.
Today the store continues as a de facto community center for Ukrainian and Polish customers, particularly around the holidays of Christmas and Easter. Orthodox Easter the busiest time of the year – customers travel from far-flung areas to procure the traditional food they need for their celebrations. During this period, the smokers are running 24/7 and the store will be packed.