Fischer Bros & Leslie
“It’s good to see you, and it’s good to be seen,” Paul Whitman said to Mrs. Lloyd, who has been a regular at Fischer Bros. & Leslie for the last fifty years. From across the shop, Paul’s brother-in-law Steve Niederman smiled and said, “Mrs. Lloyd, from 57th Street!” Paul wrote down Mrs. Lloyd’s order in his big book of house accounts and she was on her way. Over the course of the thirty minutes that we spent in this butcher shop, we witnessed many scenes like this. A regular would arrive, be greeted by name, place an order, pay via their “house account,” maybe set up delivery, and be off to their next errand. It is something that does not happen everyday, especially in New York.
Fischer Bros. & Leslie, which has been in business since 1949, has proudly served three, sometimes four generations of families, and vice president and partner Paul Whitman has gotten to know most of them throughout his tenure with the shop, thanks in part to their commitment to the house account system. Fischer Bros. & Leslie does take cash, checks, and the occasional credit card, and it does have a website, but Paul encourages everyone to open a house account. “You get to know the people this way,” he told me. They will call a customer to let them know that one of their favorites is in stock: “We have some rib steak, just what you like.” The store even accommodates their regulars by preparing seasonal foods throughout the year, if demand warrants. Partner Yisroel Brown told us there is an older couple that loves their gazpacho, even in the wintertime, so “we’ll make a batch for them,” and then added, “Just like latkes are not just for Hanukkah.”
Paul has been a part of the Fischer Bros. & Leslie family ever since he married Leslie’s daughter Marcy, whom he met in college. After graduate school at The Stern School of Business at NYU, Leslie invited Paul to work at the store while he got his resume together. “That was thirty-five years ago,” Paul told me. The full-service kosher butcher shop also prepares a large variety of Jewish favorites in-house, including matzo ball soup, which was initially prepared for Marcy one day years ago when she wasn’t feeling well, but then became so popular that it was added to the menu. Paul went on to say that they set a wall on fire making the soup, which spurred them to build a kitchen. Another fire occurred years later, just before Passover, when someone left a brisket in the oven. Luckily, Paul was staying in the family’s office upstairs at the time, and a neighbor (who knew he was there, thanks to his motorcycle parked out front) alerted him to the fire, and a Passover crisis was averted.
When I walked out of this old world shop, Jenna, a member of the Manhattan Sideways team, turned to me and said, “My family has been in New York City for over a hundred years, and I have heard them tell stories of places like Fischer Bros. & Leslie, places where a customer was greeted by name, where money only changed hands at the end of the month, where quality of product went hand-in-hand with quality of service and character, but I had never experienced it myself. Wait until I tell my Grandma that a place like the ones she reminisces about still exists.” (Good thing they deliver to Brooklyn.)