As a third-generation butcher, Michael Kane knows meat.
Kane’s grandfather and two of his uncles were both butchers, and Kane grew up visiting the meat counter for both shopping and social calls.
“We lived in the Bronx, and in those days it was a very Jewish ethnic community. I remember walking the street with my mom at the time and going into the local butcher to say hello to Grandpa and Grandma,” Kane recalls.
Kane’s grandfather joined the team at Park East Kosher when it was still housed in its original location on Madison Avenue, and later brought Kane’s uncle on board too. Kane himself began training as a butcher at 17 years old and took over the store from his uncle 28 years ago.
Under his leadership, Park East Kosher has remained an Upper East Side institution, while diversifying to meet his clientele’s changing lifestyles.
As in any bona fide kosher store, one of the two masgiachs on staff is present at every moment Park East is open to ensure that kosher standards being met.
“They actually open the store; they have the key. I don't have the key to get in. It just ensures continuity in the customs,” Kane explains.
While the business’ religious principles remain unchanged, its products have evolved. Crucially, when Kane took the reins in the early ‘90s, he expanded the store’s repertoire beyond its roots selling ingredients for home cooked meals and started offering prepared foods for busy New Yorkers. He also launched Park East’s popular catering service.
In 2018, he moved the store into its current location at 1733 First Avenue. Today, the bright boutique space is as aesthetically pleasing as the gourmet pastries on display in the front of the shop and as fresh as the meat for sale in the back.
Behind the counter, employees joke like old friends and offer customers the same attention regardless of the size of their orders, a point of particular importance to Kane, though he doesn’t flaunt it.
“When you do things that are proper, you don't really brag about it,” he says.
Instead, his reputation and his long-distance customer relationships speak for themselves.
Park East Kosher ships nationwide, with its No. 1 ordered item being none other than its steaks. The only reason Kane doesn’t ship internationally — despite requests — is to avoid the customs hassle.
Meanwhile, within the community, New York State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright wrote to Our Town in her letter of support ahead of the OTTY announcements: “Constituents have expressed that the market is an Upper East Side institution of 55 years ... Michael Kane offers a great experience for the customers of his small business offering a multitude of kosher products and a warm welcoming atmosphere.”
Much of that atmosphere likely traces back to the positive relationship Kane fosters with his staff.
“They all take a lot of pride in what they do, and I look at this as not only a way to support my family, but their families as well,” says Kane. “It's important to me that the people that work with me understand that it is a team, and I thank them for that and want to continue for many more years.”
“When you do things that are proper, you don't really brag about it.”