JP Resident Plans Sustainable Butcher & Grocer for Centre Street at Old Gas Station

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Jamaica Plain resident Max Gitlen is bringing something new to Jamaica Plain -- a butcher and grocer that will carry locally-raised meats and organic produce, farmstead dairy, fresh breads, high quality dry goods, and more.

Max Gitlen will be opening Meadowlark Butcher & Grocer (Photo courtesy Carlie Bristow Febo)

Gitlen talked about why he wants to open the butchery, the pop-ups he's done around the area, and why the business is called Meadowlark Butcher & Grocer.

Q: Why do you want to open a butchery at 561 Centre Street in Jamaica Plain?

Gitlen: Opening a local, sustainable butcher shop and grocery in Jamaica Plain is the culmination of my 15 years dedicated to the sustainable food movement and a decade of living in JP. In fell in love with this community while working at The Food Project, a wonderful local nonprofit, in my late 20s. Later, while managing The Meat Market, a small butcher shop in the Berkshires, I kept asking myself why there were so few options for local, grass-fed and pasture-raised meats in Boston. I know that JP is a thriving hub of conscientious food lovers, and that our community would support a small, local, mission-driven business like Meadowlark. The old gas station at 561-579 Centre appealed to me because of the opportunity to reactivate a disused eyesore and turn it into something green and vibrant for the community to enjoy.

Q: Why is it called Meadowlark Butcher & Grocer?

Gitlen: A Meadowlark is a small bird that lives in the grasslands amongst grazing cattle. This is how I see our business – as part of a healthy ecosystem, living in balance with animals that graze on and help to regenerate the pastures of New England.

Q: What kind of products would you sell?

Gitlen: Our core mission and function will be locally-raised meats, including 100% grass-fed and finished beef, fully pasture-raised lamb, pork, and poultry. We will work directly with small farmers and do all our butchery in-house, yielding everything from dry-aged steaks and freshly-ground beef to handmade pork sausages and offering lots of unusual cuts that you’ll rarely see in a grocery store. In our small grocery department, we will offer local organic produce, farmstead dairy, fresh breads, high quality dry goods, and more. Our prepared foods program will focus on prepared foods for folks to take home – think beautiful roast chickens, seasonal roasted vegetables, fresh and healthy grain salads, quarts of savory soups and stews.

Q: Will you sell sandwiches? Non-meat products? Fish?

Gitlen: We do plan to offer a very small, rotating selection of sandwiches – possibly starting out as a weekend special and then expanding to a regular sandwich of the day, based on the response we get from the community. We do plan to offer a well-rounded and well-considered selection of produce and groceries (as I describe above), and I really hope that the grocery and prepared foods aspects of our business appeal to many in the neighborhood who don’t eat meat. I don’t currently plan to carry fresh fish, as I don’t really have the space to expand into that program as well, but would be open to collaborating with a Community Supported Fishery program or some other fish vendor down the line.

Photo courtesy Carlie Bristow Febo

Q: What is your past experience as a butcher?

Gitlen: I’ve worked in a half dozen businesses as a butcher and charcutier over the years. Most notably, I spent several years managing the Meat Market in the small Berkshires town of Great Barrington. It was a lovely shop dedicated to the same ideals I espouse at Meadowlark – strictly local, grass-fed and pastured meats, all produced in house. We had a great team and some excellent products, but being in a tiny town, we just needed a bigger population base to tap into.

Q: Talk about the pop-ups you've done in Jamaica Plain in the past.

Gitlen: I spent a year running a pop-up operation --  both in JP and all over the Greater Boston area – offering handmade sausage sandwiches with a variety of complimentary toppings. Think Chorizo Verde topped with radishes, crema and pepitas, or a Cheddar Beer Bratwurst with Crimson Kraut and Spicy Mustard. In JP we worked quite a bit with our friends at Turtle Swamp Brewing and Thursdays on the Lawn at Loring Greenough House. The pop-ups were a great starting place, getting our name and product into the community and building relationships as we hunted for our location.

Q: 561 Centre Street is currently an old gas station. What kind of renovations would have to be done to the property? Do you know if there are environmental concerns?

Gitlen: The environmental issues at the site are already being resolved by the site’s owner, who bears the responsibility for that side of the equation. The old tanks have been removed, soil has been both removed and tested, and the air quality in the building itself has been tested. My own renovations will be significant, as we have to build a small kitchen, walk-in coolers, a butchery area, and the whole front of house service area. Very little of the current interior will remain. The exterior will also be spruced up with some fresh paint, beautiful plantings, signage, and a few picnic tables and plantings under the old gas canopy.

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