Two weeks after a fire shuttered The Butcherie, the community and nearby Jewish businesses are pitching in to support the area’s major kosher market and its customers, many of whom rely on the shop for products that are not available elsewhere.
The Harvard Street shop is not expected to reopen for at least two to three weeks. Some specialty items are now being sold at Cafe Eilat and Catering by Andrew, two kosher businesses within steps of The Butcherie.
“We’re trying to get through this as quickly as possible. We have a lot of different work crews, doing construction and cleaning,” including the store’s staff, said Walter Gelerman, one of the owners of the family owned business.
They are grateful for the outpouring of support, he said.
Opened in 1972, the market is also a deli and caterer, and sells a full range of kosher products, including meats, poultry, dairy, baked goods, wine, groceries and many products from Israel.
No one was injured in the July 12 two-alarm fire sparked by the careless disposal of a cigarette behind the shop. The fire began in a rear storage area that was used mostly for paper products, according to the Brookline Fire Department. The blaze was quickly extinguished. A home next door also was damaged.
Much of the damage was to the kitchen but food items and groceries exposed to the extensive smoke had to be dumped, Gelerman said. The fire department’s initial estimate of damage was between $400,000 and $500,000. But Gelerman said this is being evaluated by the insurance company.
The fire was hard news to absorb at first, but they are focused on the tasks required to reopen. “We’re getting it fixed and doing it as quickly as we can,” Gelerman said.
“The whole community has just pulled right in to help,” said Levana Hasson, owner of Cafe Eilat, where a refrigerator now holds newly delivered Chalav Yisrael milk and cheese, as well pita from Israel. Chalav Yisrael is a kosher designation that refers to dairy products that are sourced from farm animals milked under the supervision of an observant Jew. The Butcherie’s challah, now being baked at Young Israel of Brookline, is also available.
Catering by Andrew is offering the Butcherie’s packaged kosher meats, chicken and a selection of pastries.
Andrew Wiener, president of the company, was at a meeting in Manhattan when he got word of the fire in a text message from an insurance adjuster.
He immediately called his office, four doors down from The Butcherie.
“My first reaction was ‘I hope everyone is okay,’” Wiener recalled in a conversation in his Harvard Street office. On his drive home from New York, he spoke by phone with Gelerman. When Wiener realized The Butcherie would have to be closed for a few weeks, he offered the catering company’s storefront, which is used only two days a week. They would work out the details along the way, he assured them. “We’re neighbors,” Wiener told the Journal.
“They are definitely needed in the community,” Wiener added, pointing out that it’s not just local customers who rely on the market.
A family visiting from Israel knocked on the catering company’s door last Friday at 2:30, after it had closed. The family had arrived at The Butcherie before its 3 p.m. Friday closing, only to discover it was closed because of the fire. They had planned to buy food for Shabbat, Wiener recalled. While he had sold out of freshly prepared food, Wiener found some grape juice and a few items in the freezer. He also called Rubin’s, the nearby kosher delicatessen, which also helped out.
Even as a caterer who buys wholesale, Wiener finds himself shopping The Butcherie’s retail aisles to fill one-time or specialty menu items. “I don’t need to buy a case of salted brine olives,” he said.
The Butcherie’s well-stocked shelves and narrow aisles are legendary to customers who crowd the shop on Thursday afternoons and Friday mornings, before the start of Shabbat, and in the weeks leading up to the High Holidays and Passover. The late Alan Lupo, a beloved Boston Globe columnist, captured the spirit of The Butcherie in his essay collection, “The Messiah Comes Tomorrow.”
The availability of kosher food is important to the well-being of the entire Jewish community, according to Barry Shrage, president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies. “We are very fortunate to have a traditional community that is engaged with all aspects of Jewish life in Boston and Kashruth is essential to the life of the traditional community. We are glad no one was hurt in the fire and hope they will reopen soon,” Shrage wrote in an email.
The market is an important institution for Jews well beyond the local community, observed Miriam Natan Creighton, who works at the nearby Israel Book Shop. Natan Creighton is a longtime customer.
“You meet people from all corners of the world,” she said. It’s an important place and we love it. We all hope it reopens soon.”
The Butcherie is located at 428 Harvard St., Brookline.