Special to the Journal
Customers were greeted with warm smiles at The Butcherie on Wednesday morning when the Harvard Street store reopened nearly two months after a July 12, two-alarm fire shuttered the area’s main kosher supermarket.
About a dozen people, some with children in tow, were among the first shoppers who were on hand for the 10 am opening, eager to pick up kosher groceries and also to see the renovated store that has been under repair and construction.
The owners, Josh Gelerman, Walter Gelerman, and Gili Zilberg, announced the reopening on the store’s Facebook page on Friday afternoon, September 2 just before the start of Shabbat.
“We are filled with happiness and emotion! Butcherie has passed all inspections and will be opening its doors this coming Wednesday, September 7 at 10am! …There are no words to express the gratitude we have to Hashem [G-d] for this moment and to the amazing Boston community for all their support and love during these difficult times. We have made it through together B”H [thank G-d]. We cannot wait to greet you all at the store next week! Shabbat Shalom!”
Since August 19, The Butcherie has been operating on a limited basis out of the former Rubin’s Deli location that closed on August 5, surprising the area’s Jewish community. But the unexpected closure of Rubin’s offered an opportunity for The Butcherie, which received approval from Brookline selectmen to operate temporarily from 500 Harvard Street, just down the street from The Butcherie, through the end of September.
Before that, a very limited number of products were made available at Catering By Andrews and Cafe Eilat, two kosher businesses a few doors down from The Butcherie.
In a phone conversation with The Journal, Walter Gelerman expressed gratitude. “I wanted to express our appreciation to Catering by Andrew, Cafe Eilat and Kupel’s Bakery who offered their premises during the first few weeks after our ordeal. As a result, we were able to offer basic needs to our community. The owners did what I’d call a mitzvah and it’s very much appreciated.”
When asked about the status of the employees, Gelerman said that they’ve been paying the staff their full salaries since the fire. The shop employs about 30 people, he told The Journal.
Some employees were called back to help set up. Gelerman hopes insurance may cover the cost.
“We don’t want to cause hardship for anybody involved. We felt it was something we needed to try to do,”’ he acknowledged.
Meeting all of the required inspections by the town required a lot of coordination. The repairs involved some significant electrical work and there was more reconstruction involved than anticipated, according to Michael Yanovitch, Brookline’s deputy building commissioner. “We live in an area with many older buildings. When there are fires, they need to upgrade,” many of the systems such as electrical wiring, he said.
These are state codes that must be met, he explained.
While most of the damage from the fire was to the kitchen, there was also smoke related damage, initially estimated by the fire department at between $400,000 and $500,000. No one was injured in the blaze that was caused by the careless disposal of a cigarette behind the shop, in a storage area that was used mostly for paper products.
“It’s wonderful to come back. I’m so happy that the store will start over again,” said Paula, a warm and friendly cashier who’s greeted The Butcherie’s customers for 37 years.
“The store looks great, it’s great to be here,” she added with a heartfelt laugh. “I hope it’s going to be better, it looks very, very nice,” Paula declared.
The layout of the grocery aisles was redesigned, with one less aisle but with more shelving space, noted Zilberg. While they didn’t have a lot of time to make dramatic changes, the owners took the opportunity to make improvements, he said. “It’s a bit more updated. It’s more space and something different for customers.”
Refrigerator cases were loaded up with meat and poultry; freezers were being restocked, other refrigerator cases were lined with homemade soups, kugels and other traditional Jewish fare. A hand written sign at the prepared foods refrigerators cautioned kosher or vegetarian customers that the “Pareve,” foods, that can be either dairy or meat, were prepared on meat equipment. The deli counter also featured The Butcherie’s salads.
The store is in full retail operation, but all food preparation that requires a kitchen will continue temporarily from the former Rubin’s. The Butcherie’s kitchen remains under reconstruction.
Ralph, the market’s butcher for 22 years, reported that they’d been preparing the freshly delivered meat and poultry since the day before, including late into the night and early that morning.
Also on hand at the reopening was Rabbi Zalman Krems, executive director and kashrut administrator for KVH Kosher, a division of the Rabbinical Council of New England, which oversees the store’s kosher functions.
On a recent weekday, before the reopening, customers picked out groceries at the Butcherie’s temporary location. Refrigerators were filled with kosher dairy products and the specialty Chalav Yisrael milk and dairy products used by those observing the strict kosher designation for dairy products that are sourced from farm animals milked under the supervision of an observant Jew.
Liorah Abrams, a kosher customer who has three young children, buys the Chalav Yisrael dairy products. “They did a great job making sure we could get what we needed the most,” she said about The Butcherie’s owners.
“We appreciate their responsibility so that the people who need certain things could get it,” she said. “That was really respectful,” she said.