"Everyday at the market is kind of hilarious. Everyone here is a character…That’s when working at the Essex Street Market stopped being just a job. It became my community."
Over the next few months, we will be featuring the characters who make up the bustling corner of Delancey and Essex Street.
A historic culinary destination on the Lower East Side, Essex Street Market is home to more than 20 independent merchants. This week we spoke with Emilie, an employee at Heritage Meat Shop (pictured with a chicken above). The story behind the shop reflects the market’s diversity and how the people behind its businesses contribute uniquely to the NYC economy.
Business: Heritage Meat Shop
Owner: Patrick Martins
Sells: Non-commodity, pasture-raised meat
Been open for: Over 2 years
Who started the business and why did they want to be in the market?
Patrick Martins is the founder of Heritage Foods USA, a distribution company that sells directly to chefs, restaurants, and online customers. He started Heritage Meat Shop in 2011 after Jeffery’s Meat Market had to close its doors.
The space we occupy has actually been a butcher shop in one form or another for over 100 years. No one wanted to see Jeffery’s close and I think Patrick saw an opportunity to keep a tradition alive while also supporting his mission to make sustainably-sourced, heritage breed meat available to as many people as possible. Patrick asked Silva, who started working at Jeffery’s in 2004, to stay on board. Silva is an institution. If you don’t know him for his dry-aged steaks, then you’ll recognize him by his smile and loud voice. He likes to shout out to the crowd to hock the daily specials.
That’s the official reason, but we all really suspect that Patrick was just trying to get noticed by Anne Saxelby, the owner of Saxelby Cheesemongers. I think it worked. They’re now married and have a kid together.
What is your favorite memory at the Essex Street Market?
Everyday at the market is kind of hilarious. Everyone here is a character, but if I have to choose, it would be when we first started breaking down whole animals at the shop. That’s when working at the Essex Street Market stopped being just a job. It became my community.
What is Heritage Meat Shop’s specialty?
We sell non-commodity humanly raised meat with an emphasis on traceability. Our beef is grass fed, and all of our animals are pasture raised on small family farms.
Our pork chops are probably our most popular item. They’re a great deal, and the tastiest pork chop you’ll ever try! All of our pork is heritage breed which means they are genetically different from pigs found on commodity farms. These are the animals that historically were raised before industrialized farming came into practice.
Each breed is different, with their own unique characteristics. They vary in ways like fat content, texture, and size, but the most notable distinction is in flavor. Some breeds are creamy, with a taste that might remind you of buttermilk, while others can be described as mineraly or earthy. I’ve even had a customer point out that one breed had a red winey flavor. The fun part is experiencing the difference and coming up with your own descriptions.
Silva, our head butcher, has his own loyal following. You really can’t beat his dry aged prime rib. We always try to keep it in stock. We also carry more exotic products like goat, geese, and bison—things that you wont find just anywhere. And of course, we have a great selection of cured meats and charcuterie.
What is your favorite time of the week at the market?
My favorite time to be at the market is Saturdays when it’s busy, when we’re really moving, or Tuesdays when we get in whole animals and break them down for the week. Every culture has thier own cuts. I love the story that’s told by the different cuts that people request. There are so many ways to butcher meat; I am ALWAYS learning more and new things.
If you ever want anything custom-cut, just call us or stop by on a Tuesday. Our number is 212-539-1111 and we are more than happy to take requests for custom cuts.
Do you source any products from within the market?
Do wives and families count? If they do, then I think we are winning that game. (In reference to owner Patrick Martins and Saxelby Cheesemongers owner Anne Saxelby, who are married)
We’re all from different backgrounds with a dedication to heritage breeds and the farmers who grow them. Kieran is a drummer in a band. Silva was a rancher in Brasil—a genuine gaucho. Emilie has been a farmer and a professional horseback rider. Aldo was a butcher in Mexico. And Dick is a dot-com refugee who worked with Patrick at Slow Food USA.
What’s your favorite part about Essex Street Market? Let us know in the comments. Be sure to pay Heritage Meats a visit or call to order custom cuts, (212) 539 - 1111. You can learn more about the market at the Essex Street Market website.