We've been hearing rumors about this for awhile and now it's happening. After more than 20 years in Hell's Kitchen, right behind the Port Authority bus terminal, the Big Apple Meat Market is closing. The good news is, they're moving to a new space a couple blocks away.
Hell's Yeah NYC got a shot of the goodbye signage and points to what's coming--the Times Square Hotel, a 38-story glass tower "consisting of 440 micro luxury guestrooms." Yes, "micro luxury." Click here for a look at the giant glass tower to come--it appears to be taking the entire block with it.
So the Big Apple market is surviving, but the building is not, and it won't be the same. Prior to housing Big Apple, this space was the home of meatpacking warehouse Washington Beef, in business for over 60 years. A ghost of the old name is still on the building, and in this 1934 photo of the block, that "meats and poultry" sign might be pointing to it, back in the day when this area held a lively marketplace for fruits, vegetables, and meat.
People used to buy meat at Washington Beef, if they dared. New York magazine profiled it in 1970, calling it "the hardcore reason to shop along Ninth Avenue," but "you must be on intimate terms with the butcher" to do so. (The whole article is worth reading--it covers food shopping on 9th Avenue, a marketplace that "not even the Port Authority Terminal has managed to destroy... I'll bet someone is planning a 'renewal' right now." The fiscal crisis of the 70s made sure that did not happen. Until now.)
Another interesting tidbit about the address, if somewhat random, is this story about Ellen Meyer, a young woman who lived upstairs in the early 1900s, where she suffered from some strange catatonic condition for which she was taken to Bellevue and stuck with pins to no avail. But I digress.
The Big Apple market is a great place to visit in part because they never really renovated from the meatpacking days. The racks and rails for the meat hooks still line the ceiling, painted red. In the butcher shop, they're still use for hanging meat.
I've taken a handful of pictures at Big Apple over the years, knowing that a place so special could not possibly last.
There's something about the gloomy, semi-aquatic light, and the way the brands seem to hail from an earlier era, that lend Big Apple a frozen-in-time aura.
Signs are made by hand, not spat out of some corporate office in Texas. Above a ziggurat of pink egg cartons, the signs are hung on crooked strings.
The exterior is wonderfully dreary, covered in graffiti and pigeon shit. Standing here, you could dream yourself into a lost New York. But not for long. It's all coming down for more glass, more chain stores.
A couple of years ago, the Times did a piece on Big Apple. The article includes a wonderful slideshow of photos, featuring the sort of person who shops at Big Apple, the sort of person that is also vanishing from New York, replaced by the svelte and distracted, the hollow men and women, tapping away at iPhones in sterilized Whole Foods aisles.
Christian Hansen for The New York Times
Meanwhile, until January 13, there's the old Big Apple. Visit while you can. Buy some eggs, butter, and meat. “If it wasn’t for this store," said a Mr. Bozzonetti in the Times piece, "the majority of the people in this neighborhood would be out of luck."
Update: We wondered what would happen to the neighboring Stiles Farmers Market. Hell's Kitchen local Andrea Kleiman just sent in the following photo with good news, Stiles is "here to stay":