Back in October, the Bensonhurst community was shocked and dismayed to see beloved decades-old local grocer and butcher Meats Supreme shutter its location at 2229 86th Street. “My neighborhood will never be the same,” one area resident bemoaned to us via email.
Especially for the senior community, the closure has been very difficult. “As a senior citizen who does not drive, I need to take a bus and a shopping cart to do any major grocery shopping,” area resident Ginny Cummings bemoaned.
The landmark establishment was a holdout along its strip of 86th Street, where most of the other Jewish and Italian owned businesses have been replaced by spots catering to the neighborhood’s large and recent influx of Chinese residents. It’s this change of demographic, from English-speaking to Cantonese-speaking, that ended Meats Supreme’s ability to survive in the area, says Meats’ office manager Kenneth Kreisberg.
Instead of holding his economic troubles over the Asian community’s head, however, Kreisberg had no hard feelings while speaking to us, admitting that neighborhoods change, and his store’s closure was not a result of malice from anyone but is simply a sign of the times.
“They’re very good people,” Kreisberg says of the Asian community that has largely replaced his former customers, “but unfortunately their shopping is such that they’re only going to shop in stores in their own language.”
“We didn’t close for any other reason than the fact that we could no longer survive in this particular area with the demographics. The space was a large space, and the overhead and everything else,” Kreisberg went on.
Still, while like any jaded native Brooklynite, Kreisberg understands that neighborhoods morph with time, he admits he’s, “seen changes in demographics, but not to this extreme.”
Meats Supreme did make some attempts to assimilate to the area’s new community before closing shop: the outside awning and addition of more fruits and vegetables than they’d ever had before were both efforts to be more appealing to the Chinese community, Kreisberg said.
“I’ve been here for 37 years. It hurt a little bit, but what are you gonna do,” Kreisberg told us. He also acknowledged that his own community is partially at fault, noting, “A lot happened in this neighborhood. The kids who grew up here are no longer here. They went to New Jersey, Staten Island; they’ll never come back to Brooklyn. They’re waiting for their parents to die so they can sell their houses.”
As for Kreisberg, “Me? I’ll never leave Brooklyn,” he laughed.
Since Meats Supreme’s Bensonhurst branch’s closure, the store’s other shops have seen an uptick in traffic.
Kreisberg says Meats does not plan on opening any more branches, and that it is up in the air what 2229 86th Street will become next. The property is owned by his boss.