Monday, February 18, 2013

Mom & Pop Shop Series - Albanese Butcher

If only I had written down the darn address of the butcher's store, I said to myself, instead I spent 30 minutes walking around in the cold, with my camera pack on my back, zig zagging the streets looking for the joint. I was starting to think, "Maybe the guy finally went out of business", and was almost ready to give up when I spotted the store front. Notice the patriotic banner over the front door, looks like it's been there since the Grand Opening!
Albanese Butcher 001

Walking into the store is like being time warped back to the 50's. Except for the meat... I hope! Everything in the place is original. On the right side of the store are the scales to weigh the meat. There is a single refrigerator with no light when you open the door, probably because the bulb burned out 40 years ago, so you have no idea what anything is as it's so dark.
Albanese Butcher 004Albanese Butcher 002

The guys' mother ran the place until she was 97 years old. The shot to the left is a homemade poster of her when she was younger, it was used for decoration for her 90th birthday. Wonder if they had steaks for her birthday dinner?

The left side of the store is an office and what appears to be storage for the years of memorabilia. When I enter the store the owner is sitting with his feet up on some boxes in his makeshift office, which consists of a chair, a few boxes, and mountainous stacks of papers. He doesn't even look up, engrossed in how many pork chops he's sold that week perhaps. Anyway I break the ice by saying "I love your store, how long have you been in business?". He says, "Over 50 years", without looking up from his carcass stat sheet.
Albanese Butcher 003
Part of me senses this guy just doesn't want to be bothered, but I press on by telling him about the project, and all the while he is flipping through his stack of papers. At the end of my pitch I asked if it would be alright if I take some pictures.
Finally he looks over at me, his face is lifeless, I mean, no expression at all, and says "Sure."
Then he goes right back to his paperwork.
Albanese Butcher 006
The place has an eerie charm. The nostalgia of the old equipment... strange though to see on the wall a saw you could cut down a good size tree with or amputate a leg in hurry.
Albanese Butcher 007

 As I'm unpacking my camera I notice some pictures of an actor I knew, named Vinny Vella, taped to a cabinet. When I was an assistant photographer working on fashion jobs, Vinny drove the location van we hired. Vinny, is your typical New York maffioso type character. He told these great stories that always had me laughing. Anyway, as I wanted the butcher to warm up to me so he'd let me take his picture, I say to him, "Wow you know Vinny!" After a second or two the butcher just says "Yep." So I go on and say, "I used to work with him when he drove location vans for Star Truckers", trying to let him know that we have a mutual friend and get some interest from him. No response from the butcher.

So, I finish shooting. I'm all packed up and just about to get my back pack strapped on, when the butcher asks me in his deadpan expressionless voice "So is this going to be in a movie?".
Albanese Butcher 008

This Mom & Pop Shop photography / writing series is a project I've been working on for some time. My guidelines for the series is the shop must not be a franchise, in business for 25 plus years, family owned and operated.

Stay tuned I have several more to share from the series.

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