I was a Butcher at the Meat Market of Yore; this is my Story [PHOTOS]

Posted on: June 11th, 2019 at 5:09 am by

Photo: Richard Ovaduke

“…So Richie…waddaya doin’ here…killing time? ” -Frankie “the Hat”

In July of 1977, shortly before the Blackout, and the arrest of the notorious Son of Sam (aka David Berkowitz), I moved back to the city after a five-year stint in Lincoln, Nebraska. I had been invited to stay with a childhood friend, and his fiancé, back in my old neighborhood on the Lower East Side. Before long, I found myself running low on the cash I had saved, so I was in need of employment. My host said he had a friend who “knew a guy” who owned a store in the Meat Market, over on 14th Street, that might be able to give me a job. So I met her, and went over to Yankee Beef, which was right next door to the Old Homestead, on 9th Avenue, between 14th and 15th Streets.

She introduced me to the owner, and he asked if I could drive a truck. I replied “no.” He said that he’d like to help me out, but only needed a driver, and maybe I could come back in a couple of weeks. So I thanked him for his time, and told him I’d return to see if he had anything.

Photo: Richard Ovaduke

During our conversation, a vendor made a delivery, and came over to settle the bill. The owner opened his “freezer-coat” (a quilted coat that extends about a foot below the knee, and is worn when you work in a refrigerated room that is usually kept at a temp between 32° and 38°), and pulled out a large wad of cash to pay. The first thing I noticed was that he had a pistol holstered on his waistband. I then instinctively started to check the rest of him out; he had three additional pistols that I could see. We said goodbye and walked out of the store. My friend later told me that most of the businesses in this area dealt in cash only…so guns were pretty much everywhere…in every store.

Welcome back to New York!

My friend then said she knew “another guy” across the street who might have something, so we walked across 9th Avenue, and she introduced me to a guy I’ll call “Louie.” He asked me if I knew anything about meat; I didn’t, but he said, “that’s alright…you’ll learn quick.”

Self Portrait, Photo: Richard Ovaduke

So I got hired, and was told to report to the store the next day at 8am. My initial intention was to make some pocket change and pay the bills, until I figured out what I “really” wanted to do with my life. So the plan was to just keep the job for a couple of months, maybe a year, then move on.

That didn’t work out as planned. I wound up staying for almost 7 years.

Photo: Richard Ovaduke

The bulk of these photos were taken in 1977 and some up to, and including 1982. I borrowed my then-roommate’s camera – a 1977 model Honeywell Pentax Spotmatic (35mm). These photos offer a small glimpse into that world, and some of the people I worked with.

I can’t say that I miss those days in the market, but I can say I will never forget them…

Written by Richard Ovaduke. All photos: ©Richard Ovaduke

Recent Stories

New Condos Teased at 15-Story ‘One Essex Crossing’

Each month brings more significant updates for Essex Crossing. On the heels of the International Center of Photography launching its new flagship, the billion-dollar Lower East Side development this week rolled out more info about the CetraRuddy-designed condo tower at 202 Broome Street (aka Site 3). Dubbed One Essex Crossing, the fifteen-story newcomer features 83 […]

Broome Street Gets an Exclusive Nightclub by Omar Hernandez

Where Happy Ending once tormented this Broome Street block, and Better Days was anything but, something uber-upscale is now replacement. Perhaps even too upscale for its own good. By now you’ve probably seen the well-placed hype pieces about the newest nightclub at 302 Broome Street, led by nightlife impresario Omar Hernandez. He converted the space […]

Ten Injured, Including Firefighters, in Massive Mulberry Street Blaze Last Night [Updated]

The three-alarm blaze that engulfed 70 Mulberry Street last night spread quickly, destroying the upper levels of the historic Public School 23. The fire started shortly after 8:45pm on the fourth floor. Firefighters from Ladder 20 and police from the 5th Precinct were the first responders. More than two hundred fire personnel ultimately arrived to […]

3-Alarm Fire Engulfs PS 23 Building on Mulberry Street

Shortly before 9pm this evening, a three-alarm fire was sparked at 70 Mulberry Street (at Bayard). Within minutes, the historic building – erected in the nineteen century as Public School 23 – was in flames. More than one hundred firefighters were called to the scene to battle the blaze which is apparently confined to the […]

The Year of the Rat Scurries In

It’s the Year of the Rat! This week marks the 21st year of New York City’s Lunar New Year celebration, and no doubt the organizers are scurrying around in preparation for a veritable smorgasbord of festivities. As in years past, the festivities will kick off with the explosive Firecracker Ceremony Saturday morning at 11:00am (January 25) […]