Manager Cites “Changing Demographics” As Reason For Closure Of 86th Street’s Meats Supreme


Outside 86th Street’s former Meat Supreme on November 27. (Photo by Hannah Frishberg / Bensonhurst Bean)

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was a holdout along its strip of 86th Street, where most of the other Jewish and Italian owned businesses have been replaced by spots catering to the neighborhood’s large and recent influx of Chinese residents.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.

A sign posted on the front door of Meats before it closed. (Photo by Hannah Frishberg / Bensonhurst Bean)

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.

A day before Meats Supreme’s last day in business in October, the shelves were fully stocked. (Photo by Hannah Frishberg/Bensonhurst Bean)

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.”

Meats Supreme, on its second to last day of business. (Photo by Hannah Frishberg / Bensonhurst Bean)

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.

  • Drew B

    What a shame, sad but true. I just don’t understand, we have so many Chinese stores that all sell the same thing, how do they all remain in business, especially with some of the extra thrifty pricing they offer. As a businessman, I can’t see how the profit justifies the cost.

    • Emerald5Forever

      I have disagreed with you on issues related to the Chinese community in Bensonhurst before, but I see what you are saying and actually agree. The rate at which Chinese grocery stores and supermarkets are popping up is quite astounding, and yes, they do pretty much sell the same things at cheap and thrifty prices. I’m not sure how they remain competitive when they are carbon copies of each other; according to my mother there is enough supply and demand for them due to the Chinese population here.

      It is still pretty unbelievable though and I am skeptical. I am hoping for more diversity when it comes to shopping (and eating!) choices.

  • Lori

    Part of the problem as to why people stopped shopping on 86th Street from Bay Parkway to 23rd Avenue is because of the sanitation issues that the Chinese have brought to the area. Even with the people that have been hired to clean up 86th street the store owners do not make any attempt to keep it clean once these hired cleaners are done. Sanitation department needs to issue summons on a weekly basis to assimilate these store owners to our way of life. Growing up in Brooklyn I remember the Jewish and Italian merchants fined for paper on the sidewalks. This is also why Meat Supreme lost their patrons. No one wants to shop where it smells bad and there is garbage lying around. I shop at the Meat Supreme between 19th and 20th Avenues on 86th where it is still clean.

    • ROSALIE907

      Another problem is parking, there isn’t any. I shop at the Meat Supreme on Avenue U and West 6th Street and it’s really easy to find parking in the area. I hate shopping on 86th and the filth is one of the problems along with the inability not to be able to park. Still, I’ve shopped at this store and it’s sad to see it closing down, especially for those who live in the area.

      • Evan1407

        Another reason was their prices. They had become ridiculous!

        • ROSALIE907

          There are items I buy from them and there are those I don’t. I get my meats and other grocery items from either Stop & Shop or Shop Rite, and stock up when there’s a sale. But still, there are special items I purchase at Meat Supreme. I also go to Pastosa for a lot of items.

          • BachelorsButtons

            You buy meat from Stop & Shop or Shop Rite?! You’re part of the problem: lining the pockets of corporate America’s chain stores. Meat should be purchased only from a live market or a butcher. When is the Bean going to write more about how chain stores have ruined our neighborhood, instead of blaming immigrants who are trying to gain a foothold in America? Shop Rite? Holy, good God almighty. Dio mio! Che vergogna!

      • Lori

        I agree with you. Its hard for the residents in this area as we are losing more and more stores to shop in. Waldbaums closing hurt this area badly. The supermarket replacing it is Chinese. For elderly people they have to travel by bus to get to a supermarket. The buses are packed with people bringing shopping carts with them. Many residents are very upset with what has happened to this neighborhood.

        • ROSALIE907

          I think I heard that the Chinese supermarket has agreed to also have American products and some Italian products too. I can understand the residents being upset but the entire area is and has been changing for years now and this is the end result.

          • Emerald5Forever


        • Lisa Levy

          Yes, the supermarket replacing Waldbuams is Chinese but it will have a large amount of Italian items and large amount of Jewish style and kosher items> I’m certain that the non-Chinese residents of the neighborhood will be very pleased. Also, shopping side by side will show residents how unjustified their prejudices are.

          • BachelorsButtons

            Somehow, I’ve managed to live here my whole life and never had the need for Waldbaums or any other supermarket. There are plenty of mom & pop markets that have been here for years, have made this neighborhood distinct. I don’t get Waldbaums.

    • Emerald5Forever

      I also have issue with the sanitation problems around here; if what you say is true that the Jewish and Italian merchants were more abiding to the regulations back then, the Chinese should also learn.

  • Emme

    Let’s be completely honest here. They didn’t make THAT much of an effort to change to the new demographic. I used to frequent Meats Supreme almost daily after school from SMMJ. Their prices were always the highest one on the three blocks on 86st between bay parkway to 25th ave. They would have so much stock even back in the day when they didn’t expand that they would have expired items on the shelves. Did they ever think to downsize like some of the stores on 86st are doing right now? Or I don’t know, change their prices to be more competitive? The produce selection they began to offer outside the store was never on par with the competing produce markets on that block. Black spots and rotting produce is not competitive.

    They would have had more customers if their cashiers wouldn’t talk among themselves with a grim look on their faces whenever a customer approached them. This was always an on going problem ever since I can remember and that’s from frequenting the store for over 20 years.

    Meats Supreme also did not provide anything unique to the block. Other markets including the Russian markets offer the exact same things but at lower prices. If the Russian markets can survive even with the changing demographic then it’s not the demographic changes; it’s the business plan.

    Let’s recap on the price gouging they did here, Fage would be $8 here. It is $6-$7 elsewhere on the block. Jumbo organic eggs were $6-$7 for a dozen. It’s $4-$5 for a dozen literally in the produce market next door. Meats are nicely presented but once you get home, it’s fatty underneath because they packaged it nicely. Meanwhile, you can get the meat a few stores down cut in front of you from Chinese markets for $1-$2 cheaper. Plus the Chinese markets has more cuts of meats. Let’s not talk about demographics here because even 9 years ago, I saw many non Asians shopping in Chinese markets because the cheaper prices. They offered organic chicken for $3 higher than Whole Foods in Manhattan. Maybe they should’ve considered that their customers, Asians and non Asians, does not actually buy overpriced organic chicken. If Trader Joe’s doesn’t see a potential market in Bensonhurst then no store should even think of offering organic chicken on 86st.

    This location of Meats Supreme had cheap management and loved to overprice their inventory to the point where no one would come in anymore. Their closing sign was even cheap that the rain next day washed away the print. That’s how much respect they had for their customers; old and prospective. If the management had taken some time out to check their egos at the door and taken a few business lectures, maybe things could be different. I say this because Vucciria has been filling to the brim since they opened. Even Cherry Hill, the most overpriced market after Meats Supreme, is still open. Both non Asian markets are surviving because they adjust to the changes.

    I say this being pretty disappointed in Meats Supreme because it holds a special place in my heart. I miss everything about the old neighborhood. But I am still here and I have witnessed the changes. It’s unfortunate things do not survive but some definitely can if people were more open to the changes. But hey, with all the markets warring for customers now, produce and meats are insanely cheap on 86st! The only problem is that packaged goods and the heavy white carbs that a lot of Americans are used to eating are less abundant now. They are still around though. So if people can’t find them, they aren’t looking hard enough.

    It bugs me to no end that people are still blaming the Chinese. Hello, they are raising the property value. And life is never static. If people do not move with the times, they are left behind. Meats Supreme is an example of that.

  • Yeah White

    The yellows are always wong. (sarcasm intended)

    Yeah white.

    • Sean F

      Some people just don’t like changs. ?

    • White what?

      tell your Mother or sister what ever you want to call her to wash your mouth.

      • Yeah White

        How about calling Kreisberg’s mother to wash this guys mouth.

        “Changing demographics” is such rude excuse for failing your own business by blaming people of color.

  • Eric T

    I’m from a Chinese family that has lived in Bensonhurst since 1989. We have always shopped at Meats Supreme for all our cold-cuts, dairy, and bread needs. My mother especially likes the great prices and good service we have always received there. The last time I was there – I had noticed pretty good foot traffic – this is all very surprising.

  • Bill Bogan

    Bensonhurst Bean survives only with race baiting articles and racist-nostalgia themed pieces that are only relevant to people who have either moved out of the neighborhood or who bitterly remain.

    • Sean F

      I couldn’t disagree more. I find this site to have great information about up-coming events and services available around the community, as well as the nostalgic stories. The latter are in particular important, as they help chronicle what the neighborhood has been, and maybe inform newer residents about the special nature of this community. There is nothing “race baiting” about covering the changes in the neighborhood, unless one is the type who simply must comment negatively about other ethnicities, and that failing is on the commenters, not the site.

      • Some guy

        What’s the special nature of Bensonhurst?

        • Dorothy Berman

          The special nature of Bensonhurst is that it is a multi-ethnic community where most people get along. It’s the reason for living in this city.

          • Some guy

            Umm..are there no other multi-ethnic communities where most people get along all throughout NY as well as other cities?

          • BachelorsButtons

            The special nature… every neighborhood has its special nature… the special nature is in the history of the neighborhood, its architecture, its business districts, the various ways in which diverse populations inhabit and remake the space, etc. Is not each neighborhood in Brooklyn and the other boroughs unique and interesting? I think that’s all the original post meant.

      • BachelorsButtons

        You need to read the articles more carefully. This one is a great example. Demographic changes closed a butcher shop. Really? I was thinking, the shift must have been to a vegetarian population or something.

        But, no, look at the article: it pits Jewish and “Italian” (I use quotes with Italian, since they really mean Italian Americans) against “Asians” (quotes again because they mean Chinese). It’s not only the failed business owner who sets up this false dichotomy, but the writer herself who runs with it. Then, the same floodgate of comments: all the same losers who say the same loser things; and then you and a couple of others who make more levelheaded comments. Same thing. Over. And over. And over.

        So, if you want the Bean to “chronicle what the neighborhood has been” and “inform newer residents,” then — and I’m all for it — how about giving some real history lessons here, not imagined ones.

        Lastly, you are correct that there is nothing “race baiting” about covering demographic changes. However, when all the articles illicit the same comments, some of them quite disgusting, you’d think maybe, from an editorial standpoint, we might step back and say, first and foremost, is anything new really happening here (answer: no, because if the Bean was around in 1920 it would be a bunch of white people complaining about Italians and Jews ruining their lily white neighborhood). Second, why not look at longstanding stores — ethnic stores, let’s say, either Italian or Jewish or whatever as well as mainstream ones — that are thriving and being patronized by a diverse group of shoppers. Maybe those business owners can help failures like Kenneth Kreisberg to understand where the blame truly lies. And, they might also help the hateful people here to understand that stores stay in business when people go to them, and when they are truly special stores, then many people will be enticed to go to them.

        • Sean F

          I read it closely. It reported what the store owner said. It’s not the business of any journalist or reporter to read into or interpret the news. It’s their job to report what happened. He said these things, and they reported it. In fact, every comment in it about Asians or Chinese is directly attributed to Kriesberg. There is, in fact, very little editorializing. It’s a solid journalistic piece that would have made my college journalism professor proud.

          It’s certainly not the Bean that’s responsible for the bigoted commenters who come here. Their sort just like to squawk, and the site does a reasonable job of removing truly hateful comments (when they are reported to the site owners), or allowing cooler heads to reply.

          There are plenty of articles here about what the neighborhood has been. They’ve profiled places like Lioni’s and Pastosa. They’ve run articles about various mom-and-pop bakeries and restaurants. They’ve run historic photos and explained them in modern context. The site represents the neighborhood in all its aspects, historic and modern, warts and all.

          • BachelorsButtons

            Not exactly. Journalists and media outlets make decisions all the time about what is news. I think that’s what the original post was getting at. To you a butcher shop closing is news; to me it isn’t. So, you need not give me a lesson on what their business is. I know the business very well.

            While there is no editorializing, there isn’t much effort to present a broader picture — there are no other voices besides the manager (who sounds like a moron, and whose claim of changing demographics is the basis of the entire article — hardly newsworthy, unless of course you want to wake all the hatemongers that lurk on the board here, or you and the two other people who write the same comment over and over again) and one former patron of the store.

            So, without any editorializing, it reinforces this bogus demographic dichotomy. And they reinforce it time and time again in every single article where the influx of new residents can somehow be linked to the demise of certain businesses. That is not the way the equation works.

            Of course they are NOT at fault for the bigoted comments; however, they might do a better job of choosing their news and once they’ve made that choice, then seek balance in their reporting, e.g, don’t just talk to one person unless it’s a profile piece.

            And, yes, I’ve seen some of the other articles you mention — they generally are fluff pieces. Once again, they might make the decision (which is theirs to make) to devote more time to the businesses, old and new, that thrive despite whatever supposed demographic shifts are happening and try to understand their recipe for success instead of constantly going into the sewer to dredge yesterday’s sludge.

  • Caliph Herald

    man I was born and raised here and some of the changes have been startling , but…change is a part of life.

  • Evan1407

    “”Manager Cites “Changing Demographics” As Reason For Closure Of 86th Street’s Meats Supreme” Oh, please!!! Give me a break!!! You priced yourself right out of business!

    • Cannabis Jeff

      The problem is high rents are destroying all of our neighborhoods, So many restaurants are going out of business because of this. Our diners are closing, deli’s are gone, The only Thai sit down place is gone, Here in Sheepshead Bay we have lost 2 diners, our large China Max, one of our pizza places, our McDonalds, our luncheonette, but we have loads of Japanese & Turkish restaurants but how much can one eat the same food at these places. Change is good but too much disrupts everything. Plus condos, condos, & more condos.

      • Evan1407

        Since you don’t live here (and presumably don’t shop here either), you are unaware of just how high the prices were at this Meats Supreme. I stopped shopping there a few years ago.

    • BachelorsButtons

      The manager is clearly a meathead.

  • BachelorsButtons

    A butcher shop closes due to a “changing demographic”?! What, from a carnivorous population to a vegetarian one?

    Seriously, these articles are ridiculous. And, worse, they seem to just encourage the same pathetic loser comments. Why do you keep writing them? The pitting of “Jewish” and “Italian” against “Asian” is embedded in every article here about a store closing, as if the former population somehow didn’t remake this neighborhood in their own image, as if they aren’t just as foreign, just as immigrant, just as nonwhite. Give me a break! Jewish, Italian, and Chinese = three minority groups in America. Deal with it.

    And, the writing is mindless: “It’s this change of demographic, from English-speaking to Cantonese-speaking.” Well, last time I checked Italians spoke Italian and set up businesses to serve their community. Same with the Jews. Same with all non-English speaking immigrants ever.

    So, Meat Supreme did NOT serve the Italian and Jewish communities, but rather only the English community. Therein lies the problem: Stores stay in business, generally, when they have business. If they want to reach a population, they make an effort.

    You know what, their meat wasn’t supreme; it was crap. And, now they want to blame their business failings on demographics. Disgusting!

    • Sean F

      It wouldn’t do for them to admit that they sold/sell poor quality meat. They still have four stores. They’re going to do what any business would do, blame the failure on forces beyond their control. That’s good business sense, even if it’s not honest.

  • Lisa Giano

    move ….

  • Hi I’m a demographic

    Hi I am Asian, I consider myself “American” by the way, I shop at Costco, I never shopped at Meat Supreme, Chinese markets appeal to older folks do not appeal to me.

    Because of what this dude says I wouldn’t visit his stores. I do not want his passive aggressiveness ruin my day.

    Good luck to your struggling business.