Since both Holly and I received the same email yesterday from Paul Steinke, RTM general manager, about the Ochs situation, there's no reason not to make it more widely known, since Paul's reason in sending it to both of us was to get the info out into the public domain. Here are the salient points Steinke made:
For the past several years, Market management has worked hard to help the Ochs stand find firmer footing. In fact, we have devoted more time to them than to any other merchant here. We met with them countless times. We arranged free consulting services for them with the Wharton Small Business Development Center. We offered them tenant improvement financing. We agreed to rent discounts that no other tenant was privy to. We offered numerous, generous payment plans (all of them broken).
As their account got further and further behind, we held off legal action for years in deference to the Ochs name and what they contributed to the Market, and later, because Harry was sick. Once Harry died, however, we felt that it was time for the Ochs stand to carry its weight in the Market along with the other merchants. So we gave them one more chance.
Last summer, Nick signed a new lease. But he started falling behind almost immediately. So, after years of holding back, we finally had no choice but to initiate the legal process to enforce the lease. Nick filed for Chapter 11 protection in early April. Two weeks later the court dismissed the filing.
So in the quiet of the evening on Monday, after the Market had closed for the day, and with the re-scheduled eviction date approaching, Nick backed his truck up to the Market and packed up. No notice was given to us, to his fellow merchants, or even to his own employees.
We are saddened by the loss of the Ochs name, but I take solace in knowing we did all we could to help them and to maintain an environment conducive to their success. I also take solace in the general prosperity of the great majority of the rest of the Marketís merchants, who work hard, serve their customers well and pay their bills.
There's no reason a butcher can't thrive in the market, as Charles Giunta has shown with his relatively new shop. Where Giunta's is strictly a butcher (having given up on his rotisserie chicken experiment), Ochs had tried to move into deli and prepared food -- at least half of the case were filled with either items for reheating at home or Boar's Head cold cuts -- with little success.
Nick did less and less of cutting meats to order in the last few years. I continued to shop there for chuck ground to my order for burgers, even as little as a pound which Nick and his staff happily provided. I would also occasionally buy a chicken breast or piece of lamb there, but Giunta (and to a lesser extent his brother Martin) had won over a good hunk of my meat-buying loyalty. In addition, those who have more knowledge about the subject than I say that Nick's butchering skills, while good, just weren't up to the level of his father and late brother, Harry Jr.
That move to prepared and deli items was undoubtedly an attempt to keep the business viable, since few people were prepared to pay the prices Ochs had to charge for his excellent prime, dry aged beef. And those who were willing to consider meat as an investment vehicle spent most of their dollars at Whole Foods -- my market sources tell me Ochs took a big hit in revenue when Whole Foods opened at Callowhill and 20th Street and never recovered. (Even I, maybe three or four times a year, buy from the butcher case there.)
There are neither heroes nor villains in this story. Just changing times that exempt no individual or institution from its demands.
Edited by rlibkind, 07 May 2011 - 08:25 AM.