As a dedicated defender of unique New York, I am not one to knock indy NYC businesses. And certainly not one to knock old indy NYC businesses. And certainly, certainly not one to rap old, ethnic, indy NYC businesses.
But I have to say: Park East Kosher Butchers exasperates me.
The butcher and grocery was founded more than fifty years ago on Madison Avenue, and moved to Second Avenue near 85th Street a decade ago. It is one of the last surviving kosher butchers in Manhattan. It is family owned, and the connection between the staff and the customers is impressive. Regular clientele are called by their name as they totter it. (Many of the regulars are elderly.) "How are you, Mrs. C?" someone will call. "Same as usual, Mrs. K?"
Whoever Mrs. C and Mrs. K are, however, they must be rich. And not just because they live on the Upper East Side; lots of people of various incomes have hung on in this area by their fingernails for years. They're rich because they shop at Park East Kosher! In the annals of exorbitant pricing, I know of few stores that match Park East in gaul. A piece of kosher meat bought in this shop will run you anywhere from twenty-five to one hundred percent more than it will in any other kosher meat market in town. I know this because I regularly buy kosher meat and know how much it costs. Every time I walk into Park East, full of good will and willing to buy, I walk out empty-handed and angry. You can't look at the prices without feeling you're being gouged. A simple eight-pack of Empire kosher turkey hot dogs that costs $2.50 or so anywhere else in town will cost you $4 here.
So who puts up with such prices? Well, the wealthy. My most memorable experience with Park East involved a Brooklyn acquaintance. This person did not want for anything. They had a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights and a summer house on the Long Island Sound. Eating kosher in Brooklyn, they had any number of choices where to shop. Aside from Fairway and Trader Joe's, there are the countless kosher butchers in Borough Park and Williamsburg and Crown Heights. Yet this person drove specifically to Park East for their kosher meat needs. I guess if you can afford it...