“I always knew I was going into the family business,” says Stanley Lobel, the current president of butcher shop Lobel’s of New York.
A native New Yorker, Lobel speaks fondly of the years immediately after he graduated from Taft High School in the Bronx, when he woke daily at 4 AM to begin work at the shop 6 days a week. Even before that, however, much of his childhood was spent around the business.
“Whenever I could [as a kid], my dad would take me down to work with him,” says Lobel. “It was really a pleasure doing it, the greatest times ever.” A generation later, he raised his son David the same way, waking together at 4 AM on Saturday mornings to hand-select meat from the wholesalers.
The Lobel’s butcher shop on Madison Avenue opened on August 30th, 1954. However, the roots of the business go back much further, to the 1840s in Austria.
“That’s where it began, the first three generations,” explains Lobel. “The third being my grandfather, who immigrated to the United States to open the shop on Madison Avenue.” Today, generations four, five and six of the Lobel family are working in that very same butcher shop.
At 86, Lobel still comes into the shop two to three times a week. He continues to work long shifts on his feet, and says he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Despite having the feel of a small neighborhood business, Lobel’s of New York serves the movers and shakers of the city and beyond. Lobel says the shop’s clientele “literally consist[s] of who’s who in America. I don’t disclose my clientele, but not a day goes by that we don’t have a call from one of our famous customers.”
Among the Lobel family’s former customers was Jackie Kennedy Onassis. “She’d come into the store sometimes when she was doing a special party, and we would in many instances talk about what she was gonna have and what she was gonna serve,” says Lobel. “[She was] very, very, very nice, and she lived right around the corner from where our store was.”
Incredibly, the Lobels still deliver their products door to door via bicycle.
“We have customers that call 5 or 6 days a week every day for that night’s meal...one day it’ll be steak, one day poultry, another day lamb, pork, beef,” explains David Lobel, Stanley’s son. “We deliver on bikes, the old-fashioned way. We still deliver on bicycles right to their apartment doors, every single day, all day long.”
The junior Lobel describes Stanley as a pillar of the community.
“Everybody in the shop looks up to him, respects [and] admires him,” says David Lobel.
“At 86 years old, he still comes into the shop and everyone is thrilled to see him.”
Moreover, the business has continued to thrive over the past few decades in large part due to the elder Lobel’s energy and passion. “Every single person in that shop, he’s taught individually to help develop and help cultivate the best butchers,” concludes David Lobel.
While his dedication to his work is tireless, however, for Stanley Lobel, it’s all about family at the end of the day.
“[My favorite part] is being with my family, and watching everybody get along,” says Lobel. “That in itself is a huge achievement.”
“Everybody gets along like five fingers on a hand,” Lobel says of working with his family members. “It’s amazing how things work so incredibly well. When you have a situation like that, you can’t help but want to get up and go to work and do the same thing over again next day with pleasure and joy.”
“Everybody in the shop looks up to him, respects [and] admires him. At 86 years old, he still comes into the shop and everyone is thrilled to see him.” David Lobel, Stanley’s son