PEABODY – If you find yourself on the North Shore and have a hankering for kosher pastrami or brisket, there’s just one place to turn: Larry Levine’s Meats & Deli in Peabody, the largest kosher meat market north of Boston and south of Montreal. For many years it was run with quiet competence and determination by its namesake, Malden native Larry Levine.
“He had a saying: the best there is, the best there was, the best there’ll ever be. Whatever he did, he had to do it right,” said Levine’s son Todd, who now runs the business.
After years of hard work and devotion to his family and community, Larry Levine passed away on Dec. 21. He was 86.
Levine was born in Malden in 1933 to Samuel and Eva Levine, a tailor and a secretary. He enjoyed a traditional Jewish childhood at Congregation Beth Israel in Malden, and graduated from Malden High School. He was a talented saxophone player awarded a scholarship to the New England Conservatory of Music, but his father put an end to that, warning against becoming a “bum.” Levine went to study business at Northeastern University instead, although he enjoyed playing saxophone for the rest of his life, and sometimes played alongside his son and granddaughter, who both played as well. “That was one of his greatest joys in life,” said Todd.
In high school, he delivered orders for a local kosher butchery, then attended Northeastern. In 1956, he and his new wife Mindy moved to Providence, R.I., where he worked for her father in his kosher meat market called Spigels. Larry and Mindy stayed in Providence for three years and gave birth to their first child, Rene. They then moved back to Malden, and had two more children, Allen and Todd. While in Malden, Levine worked at Prime Market in Newton, before a friend with a butchery in Chelsea retired and asked Levine to take over. He was initially reluctant, and rented the business for a year, but eventually bought it, and then moved it to Peabody around 30 years ago.
At that time, there were still a few kosher meat markets in Peabody, Lynn and Revere. As the other markets began to close, Levine gave his former competitors work – so much so that they jokingly referred to his shop as the “old age home for kosher butchers.”
Levine worked six long days a week to run his business. “Back in those days you had to wake up at 5 in the morning to go into Boston to pick out your meat, and you’d come home at 8,” said Todd. “He had a great work ethic, and he always made sure the customer got what they wanted. He was a perfectionist.”
Levine grew up in a Modern Orthodox family, and valued his Jewish faith his whole life. The one day he didn’t work was Saturday, when he attended Congregation Beth Israel in Malden. He later enjoyed High Holiday services at Temple Ner Tamid in Peabody once he moved to Middleton. “One of his great joys was to sit on the High Holidays with his grandchildren, and he quietly taught me what it is to give tzedakah,” said Todd, who noted how charitable his father was to so many people. Levine sometimes gave money, but other times gave tzedakah in the form of food by providing free catering for causes he cared about.
He retired 25 years ago and enjoyed life as a snowbird grandfather who came back to check on his business often. He remained a butcher till the very end. “Up until the last days he was in rehab, he said, ‘I gotta teach them how to cut the corn beef for the sandwich,’” said Todd. “He couldn’t eat it because it was cut the wrong way.”
He is survived by his wife Mindel Levine and his children Rene Schecker, Allen and Joanne Levine, and Todd and Simone Levine; his grandchildren Adam and Arielle Levine, Jenna Levine, Hillary Levine, Allison Levine, Justin Schecker and Sarah Schecker; and great-granddaughter Hallie Levine.