An icon that reminds us of German immigrants
AUTHOR SANEL HUSKANOVIC / CATEGORY HISTORY / PUBLISHED: SEPTEMBER-29-2019
"My grandfather entrusted me with the business and hopefully I will entrust it to my children at some point, so it's part of the torch that I'm passing on to the next generation."
Almost every week, Jeremy Schaller gets a call from a developer who wants to buy the two nondescript four-story buildings that house Schaller and Weber, a landmark of the German sausage and sauerkraut industry on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
One of them even offered $24 million, which was almost four times the market value of both buildings.
The developers, Mr. Schaller and heritage advocates believe, want to demolish the buildings and add another looming glass tower to the Yorkville neighborhood, once made up of historic and traditional working-class stairwells and mom-and-pop shops. Today the neighborhood is filled with expensive high-rise buildings.
But Mr. Schaller has rejected every offer, including those who promised to reopen the business in the proposed tower.
The family-owned butcher shop refuses to sell to developers
Jeremy Schaller's grandfather Ferdinand opened a butcher shop in the same room, in the same building, in the same Yorkville section of the Upper East Side, where Jeremy stands behind a chest-high counter full of meat and asks a customer, "Hungarian salami? How much do you want?"
When Ferdinand opened Schaller and Weber in 1937 with a business partner whom he soon bought out, four other German butcher shops within a block radius offered bratworst, crackling sausage and cold cuts.
“Now we’re the only store in town,” Jeremy said.
And Jeremy, who learned this trade alongside his father and grandfather in this business, is now the only Schaller in the business.
“It was pretty much the fate of my life,” he said.
In recent years, a number of callers have attempted to purchase this fate.
"It's not my job to say yes to something like that," Jeremy said. "My grandfather entrusted me with the business and hopefully I will entrust it to my children at some point, so it's part of the torch that I'm passing on to the next generation."
Jeremy's seven-month-old son, Wolfgang, cannot yet carry a butcher knife, but one day Jeremy hoped to teach him.
“We will start at an early age,” he said.
Three years ago, Schaller and Weber transformed a garbage room next door into a sausage and beer bar. "And now," Jeremy said, "it's a business that makes almost $1 million a year."
For this store's nearly century-long success, Jeremy credits his two employees ("They know everyone's name in the neighborhood. They know what they like. They can basically pack their bags before they're told what they want.")" I have regulars who say their grandparents brought them when they were five years old and now they're in their 70s," Jeremy said.
"Hasn't changed in 40 years," a customer named Michael told FOX 5 News.
For four decades, Michael bought his gourmet meat from Schaller and Weber.
"They know me. I know them," he said.
Michael welcomed the store's recent additions of German beer and other imported goods.
“I have to come here and I will continue to come here,” Michael said.
After 82 years, the display cases look the same. Hanging flesh still adorns every cubic inch of unused space.
A new subway brings new customers to this old building that is now worth a lot more money. And a Schaller still runs around behind the counter, filling bags with meat he carved, ground or prepared himself.
"2/3 pound," he said to the customer looking for Hungarian salami.