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Tears Among the Sausages

It was an emotional scene at European Quality Meats & Sausages on Saturday, as the 53-year-old store closed its doors.

Customers enter the landmark butcher shop for the last time.

It was a bad day for carnivorous Torontonians on Saturday, as the original Kensington Market location of European Quality Meats & Sausages closed its doors after 53 years in business.

The frenzy of Saturday afternoon commerce was occasionally broken by random bursts of emotion, as both staff and customers were moved to tears over the store’s closing. Customers lined up at the grill to get their last burgers, while, over at the cold meat counter, an employee had to be reminded not to restock. Counter staff hugged and comforted one another between orders.

According to store manager Shalom Koningsberg, the decision to centralize European’s operations at their store in Etobicoke was in part due to the changing population of Kensington Market—specifically, the arrival of people he refers to unflinchingly as “yuppies.”

“Years ago, you used to have families, immigrants,” he said. “They’d come in and shop for the whole family for a week. Now, [customers] come in and take one or two items. A lot of them don’t even want to cook, they just go out and get prepared food. That’s what the area’s become now.”

Koningsberg says that between Kensington’s shifting demographics and his ever-declining profits, he was left with no choice but to close up and lay off his staff.

“The staff all got severance pay,” he said. “The other location is stocked with employees already, but in the future, if we’re going to hire, we’re going to try and hire back these employees. They were loyal.”

One of those staff members is 16 year-old Carlos Vieira, who had worked part-time in shipping and receiving for a year and a half. For Vieira, European provided him with more than just a paycheque; it gave him a chance to get familiar with a new part of the city.

“I like the area. It’s like a whole new style of living down here,” he said. “I live pretty far from here, at Keele and Eglinton. It’s pretty up north. I just like the whole area and how it feels and all the crazy people that I see.”

The closing was also difficult for European’s long-time customers, many of whom had been coming to the store for years. John Lee, a 28-year-old graphic designer and fan of European’s extra-lean ground beef, had been coming to the store for six-and-a-half years. He echoed Koningsberg’s sentiments about the changing face of Kensington.

“It’s the end of an era,” said Lee. “The Market’s changed so much since I’ve been here. It’s lost the personality that made it great, thriving area. Now it’s getting all yuppified.”

Fellow customer Wayne Yee’s connection to European Quality Meats & Sausages runs even deeper. The 64-year-old shopkeeper grew up near Kensington Market and has been coming to the store since it opened in 1959. Yee, who calls European’s chicken sandwich “the best in the city,” admits that he’s sad to see the place go and is worried about gentrification, but is also hopeful for the future of European’s former home on Baldwin Street.

“I’d like to see a delicatessen in there,” Yee said. “Something that has character, like a Schwartz’s [in Montreal]. You need an anchor like that.”

While Yee holds out hope for a deli, Koningsberg just hopes that some of his old Kensington customers will make the trip out to European’s remaining location at Kipling and the Queensway.

“I hope most of them will come,” he said. “The meat is still going to be great, and the service is still going to be great.”

Comments

  • rocketeer

    I guess a little bitterness from Koningsberg is understandable, but Sanagan’s Meat Locker won over my ‘yuppie’ ass ages ago so I’m not exactly heartbroken.

    Still, it would be nice if the space wasn’t taken over by another Shopper’s Drugmart or something else equally bland.

  • Anonymous

    I believe that the building was sold, no? If so, then I imagine that the building will be torn down and replaced with a “hip Kensington” condo, albeit with retail of some kind on the street level.

  • Asdf

    The only tears to be shed here are of joy for the Euro Meats owners all the way to the bank, they must have made a ton out of that location (spinning of a way more successful location for wholesale out in Etobicoke) and a killing selling the building – rumoured in the ballpark of 1.8+ million. I believe the building was bought by Essence of Life owners and will likely end up a organic/yuppified grocery store. Times change and as a long time Market dweller I am happy to see Euro meats go and the neighbourhood continue to evolve and change. The market needs a new core of a younger generation to reinvigorate. Call them yuppies if you want but they are the ones to keep culture and personality in the market, not some old man’s dreams lost in a meat store.

  • DG78

    So sad when such stores, which are the epitome of our wonderful diversity and cultural mosiac, close because of gentrification. Same things is happening to Roncy’s and it’s breaking my heart.

  • Guest

    WOW Shalom Koningsberg sung a different tune a few months ago: http://twitpic.com/97suul so basically he is full of bs.

  • alex meyers

    You’d think that with the trend towards specialty meat restaurants (The Stockyards, Black Hoof, etc.) business would be booming for Euro Meats.

    • Anonymous

      Their stuff is about as good as the butcher’s counter at Loblaws. Black Hoof et al. are sourcing their meats from upscale butchers like Cumbrae’s and The Healthy Butcher

  • Anonymous

    “Now, [customers] come in and take one or two items. A lot of them don’t even want to cook, they just go out and get prepared food”
    So the needs of customers chnaged but the company’s producst did not. No wonder it closed :-(

  • http://twitter.com/goldsbie Jonathan Goldsbie

    The manager blaming “yuppies” makes me more than a little angry, since the son of the store’s owner was quite clear — when speaking to the Globe two months ago — that the only reason they were closing was because they could make a killing off the property sale:

  • David Newland

    Hahaha! 28 year old graphic designer sneering at ‘yuppies.’ Pot, meet kettle?

    • Grimoseblackheart

      The guy quoted in the article is probably the furthest thing from a yuppie. Nice try though!

  • Vampchick21

    People still use the term ‘Yuppie”????? I thought that died out when the 80′s ended.

  • Anonymous

    I guess count me in with the Yuppies.

    I used to live in this area a number of years ago and keep commuting back from the west end a few times a week to do my grocery shopping and take in the odd pedestrian Sunday.

    I would say if anything the area is only getting better year after year. More interesting food, more fun events and great overall feel day in day out.

    I have never understood the love people have for his cheap / generic meat that you can buy anywhere. Even though I personally did not like his shop much, I never really had any bad feelings about it, you know to each their own. But after this story and another I read in the Sun, I now feel that I am not going to miss this shop at all.

    As said below Sanagan’s on the same block more than fills my butcher quotient in the area.

  • Arthur Hanks

    It’s not just yuppies, whoever that may be.

    “They’d come in and shop for the whole family for a week. Now, [customers] come in and take one or two items. A lot of them don’t even want to cook, they just go out and get prepared food…”

    That describes many of the grocery customers in my Local Shoppers Drug Mart as well. Single renters, students, urban poor etc.

    And hey, it’s a deli.You know, a lot of people in Toronto do not eat meat. Othe’s don’t eat it every day,

    The market changed, and the owners don’t seem to know why.

  • Anonymous

    Used to like European Meats – when I didn’t know any better. The factory fresh dead stuff they sell now is not nearly as tasty as the stuff at Sanagan’s (way to go Peter!). I do regret the loss of getting a freshly grilled drebreziner sausage with sauerkraut. And now Sanagan’s tiny store will be more crowed than ever!

    I agree the market is getting better, even with the loss of some older businesses. Before Sanagan’s there was Max and Sons, run by the “son”, who was in his late 70s by the time Sanagan bought him out. Now, that meat store is as busy as ever, and the QUALITY is incredible.

    The interesting thing about European Meats wa that it never ever tried to live up to the fact that ‘Quality’ was part of it’s name.