What the Minor Ukraine Neighbors Recall


Andrew Ilnicki, 59, runs the East Village Meat Marketplace.

Ilnicki this month.
Picture: Dina Litovsky

My father had an aunt listed here residing throughout the avenue on St. Marks Spot amongst Very first and 2nd Avenues. She invited him to New York. I was 17 and I came alongside for assist. I can don’t forget particularly — July 28, 1980. It was so warm and humid. And we arrived in suits! Gentle brown, corduroy. Everyone else was donning short sleeves and even short trousers. We were not accustomed to going into the metropolis with limited pants.

We didn’t communicate English at all. My uncle advised me I had to come across a task. There was an advertisement in the newspaper that they wanted a butcher here at the meat industry. My aunt walked me throughout the avenue to fulfill Mr. Baczynsky. I wore the very same suit. My aunt was conversing to him, and he said, “I do not will need a boy I need to have a butcher!” So we turned about, but ahead of we got to the door, he identified as us again. He explained to me to occur on Friday to operate with the cashier. I really do not know what made him modify his mind, but I begun that Friday.

Company was various then. It was Ukrainians, Polish people — I really do not want to use the phrase Russian, but they were being clients much too. They were being hungry. They had been challenging-doing work guys in construction and women that labored evenings cleansing. So kielbasa, ham, blood sausage, liverwurst — a whole lot of their comfort foodstuff. Meat was large because everybody was cooking at home. Five, 10 scenarios of chickens a working day. While the cashier was ringing people today up, my position was bagging it.

Immediately after two months, Mr. Baczynsky claimed, “Don’t appear on Friday. Come on Monday.” Then he started off demonstrating me the slicer equipment, the scale — I started off studying all the solutions that we’re marketing. It was uncomplicated I uncovered quickly. And then following two much more months, one particular of the butchers mentioned, “Congratulations, you’re going to be our manager sometime.” I was 18 then. I appeared at him: “Yeah, suitable, I’m heading to shell out all my lifestyle in this article.”

Mr. Baczynsky, I produced a specific bond with him. I was a excellent match. He took me to his dwelling on the Jersey shore, and he hardly ever took no person to his home. Nobody. Lots of people assume that I was his son.

What was Mr. Baczynsky like? He was a Ukrainian dude, born in Zhytomyr. He was good. He experienced an engineering diploma. He opened his very first butcher store in 1955 on 10th Road and Avenue B. He opened this shop in 1970. He was a hardworking, generous male. Incredibly spiritual, him and his spouse. She worked below as well. It was like they connect with now a papa-mama organization. They made use of to occur right here together to open up the shop at 3 o’clock in the morning. He would do the job in the kitchen area, smoking meats, and she would clear. This was their pride — the keep normally seemed spotless. It is been 52 yrs, and the retail outlet however seems to be fantastic. I mean, it is aged, it’s not fashionable, but it is not falling down.

The butcher store in 1983.
Picture: Gift of Maria and Julian Baczynsky. Courtesy of The Ukrainian Museum

He cherished every little thing new and modern day. He modified his vehicle each and every 12 months — he always wished a new smell. That was him. Just about every Sunday, he was at the Waldorf-Astoria following church for brunch. He was a regular there for 30, 40 decades. He loved uptown. You don’t forget The Four Seasons? He had a desk following to the pool. There was a famous French cafe, La Côte Basque. He was a normal there way too. The restaurants close to below had been not definitely his style.

In 1988, he had a coronary heart attack and started out doing the job considerably less. He could not occur in so early, so he uncovered a substitute: me. His spouse employed to simply call me at 2:30, 3:30 in the morning to appear pick her up and consider her to the keep. It was like that for 6, 7 decades. They have been getting ready me to choose about the organization. Nothing at all experienced to be explained instantly they display you how to do the payroll, how to order everything, how to observe the numbers.

And then in 1992, they handed above the organization to me and this other dude, Tony, who worked in the kitchen and made the sausage. We ran the business enterprise jointly for 25 a long time. Now it is just me. I do not know who will get over when I retire. I have two children, but they don’t want to do it. It is difficult, physical get the job done. You need an immigrant who’s bold, who believes in the American Dream. Advertising, taking care of the shopper, it is effortless. But we’re manufacturing the products and solutions. We’re developing some thing.

These days, the Ukrainians who employed to shop below regularly have turn out to be old. The doctors tell them not to consume far too substantially salt or sodium nitrates. Eighty p.c of our business enterprise now is English-speaking individuals who live in the neighborhood. A number of many years back, we started off marketing well prepared food. That’s the major factor now, primarily on Saturday. We offer 3 various types of soup. We provide stuffed cabbage, kielbasa, sauerkraut, 10 distinct forms of blintzes. Pierogi. Baked chickens — a ton of chickens. Normally, the only big improve is that we resolved to handle the amount of salt that we use. We just begun promoting a metropolis ham — that is a new factor. It is smaller and lean. No one in the city needs to try to eat fats.

At a single issue, I considered about leaving. I went to university at NYU — $295 a credit.  I did it for 6 decades, and I worked in this article the full time. I analyzed company, of class — accounting, management, finance, economics. I was great in economics. I’m nevertheless fantastic. I had a professor who was some kind of male at Manufacturers Hanover Have faith in bank, and he offered me a occupation. They had a headquarters on Park Avenue, and on major of the roof, they had a cafe where executives made use of to go for lunch. He said, “If you keep below for a yr or two, which is the place you’re going to consume!” The cash was maybe two, three situations more than I employed to make listed here. Didn’t get it. For the reason that of Mr. Baczynsky!