As a retail guy, Morris Naggar knows how to spot unmet demand and fill it.
So when Naggar, a businessman who has lived around JFK Crossing most his life, got tired of trying to track down glatt kosher meat in Boston, he decided to do something about it – even though he'd never run a food service business in his life.
"We wanted glatt meat and couldn't get it," Naggar said last week, standing outside the gutted audio shop where he and his brother are building a new gourmet food store that will boast the first glatt butcher Brookline has had in five years.
Besides being the only place to get fresh glatt meat this side of Newton, Naggar said his new shop – called Grape Leaves – will be stocked with imported goodies and high-quality organic foods, all kosher. He wouldn't say exactly what'll be on his shelves, but Naggar envisions a grocery similar to the two DeLuca's Markets on Newbury and Charles streets in Boston.
"We're trying to find harder-to-find items that you don't get in the supermarkets, kosher items that are harder to get locally," he said. "There's a lot available, just not right now in Boston."
Construction crews have installed a new molded tin ceiling in the former audio shop, located a Harvard and Fuller streets, and will eventually sand down the grime and carpet glue on the floor to expose the hardwood underneath. The new store will feature an open kitchen in the back – "my staff will be on display," Naggar said – along with a rotisserie and deli displays for hot and cold foods, prepared dishes, cold cuts and marinated meats.
When it opens in August, Grape Leaves will be the third butcher in the Coolidge Corner and JFK Crossing neighborhoods, moving in just across from the well-established Butcherie, which is kosher but not glatt, and down the street from a new Meat House on Beacon Street.
And while Naggar doesn't want Grape Leaves to be seen as a "Kosher Only" shop, he says his glatt offerings are what's going to set him apart, attracting a niche market of customers – likely orthodox Jews – who probably wouldn't shop at the other butchers anyhow.
Though technically used only to refer to animals inspected to ensure that their lungs are free of defects, the term glatt is now commonly used as more of an "all purpose" word for kosher supervision, according to kosher food writer Jonathan Abbett. And while kosher products have become popular among Gentile foodies looking for higher quality food in recent years, Abbett said he doesn't expect glatt products, which must meet different standards of certification, to get caught up in the same trend.
"It's become more of a mainstream thing where people might look to kosher products because they think it's healthier or cleaner or tastier," said Abbett, a Brookline resident who founded the Kosher Blog. "Glatt is still something of a niche, because it's typically even more expensive than plain kosher, so anyone who is just curious might be driven away by the even higher costs."
But Abbett agrees that Grape Leaves is likely to fill a gap left in Brookline's close-knit kosher community when Beacon Kosher, a glatt butcher in Washington Square, closed down five years ago.
Since then, Gordon & Alperin in Newton has been the only glatt butcher in the Boston area, though Brookline offers a variety of glatt restaurnts, and some grocery stores and butchers offer frozen or prepackaged glatt meat, as do delivery services like Specialty Provisions. But many people simply load up on meat from glatt butchers in New York.
"I know a number of people who fill up big coolers when they go to New York," Abbett said.
Though getting the certification and equipment necessary for a glatt butcher shop was a challenge, Naggar said confident that it's what Brookline needs.
"It's not the pashut, as they say in Hebrew, it's not an easy thing that anybody can do," he said. "We felt the need was there for the community – I couldn't see the town go with out a glatt kosher butcher."