Harry G. Ochs butcher pulls up stakes at Reading Terminal Market

Harry G. Ochs & Sons had occupied a prime spot at the center of Reading Terminal Market.
Harry G. Ochs & Sons had occupied a prime spot at the center of Reading Terminal Market. (LAURENCE KESTERSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 04, 2011

Facing eviction, the century-old Harry G. Ochs & Sons butcher shop has vacated its stand at Reading Terminal Market.

The denouement of a Philadelphia retail landmark came quietly, after closing time Monday, when owner Nicholas Ochs removed signs, his butcher's block, and personal effects from the stand.

A few hours later, his wife posted news of Ochs' relocation on Reading Terminal's Facebook page. Ochs is now an employee of Main Street Market in Manayunk, managing the butcher operation there at Main and Grape Streets, effective Tuesday morning. Four of his employees are also working there.

Ochs' sudden departure surprised Reading Terminal Market management, which in February sued Ochs, alleging that he owed more than $21,000 in rent and utilities on the prime spot that his father had operated in the center of the market since 1947.

The eviction notice was just one issue. On April 4, the business filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. TD Bank, which last year filed a judgment against Harry G. Ochs & Sons seeking more than $107,000 it said was owed on a loan, sought to convert the filing to Chapter 7, which would have effectively liquidated the business. A judge dismissed the bankruptcy petition altogether April 21. Another judgment against the business, filed last fall by Asian Bank, sought $105,000.

On Tuesday, Ochs' former meat cases in the middle of the storied market sat empty. Signs posted by management acknowledged the closing.

Nicholas Ochs' father, Harry, was one of the men who led the charge 20 years ago to save the market from redevelopment as plans for the Convention Center were being drawn up. In 2004, 41/2 years before he died at age 80 in December 2009, the city named the 1100 block of Filbert Street after him.

Ochs and Paul Steinke, the market's general manager, were loath to point fingers Tuesday.

"We're sorry to see them go," Steinke said. "We'll long remember the Harry Ochs name. Despite many attempts to reach an agreement to satisfy Nick's financial obligation to the market, we were unable to resolve those issues. But we wish him and his family well."

In a brief conversation Tuesday, Nicholas Ochs said: "It seemed like it wasn't working out with us. I wanted to leave on a positive note."

Through his publicist, Ochs issued a statement: "I decided it was best to close our shop at Reading Terminal Market now, after 105 years, because of many of the personnel and policy changes at the market in the past few years.

"The Ochs family, in particular my late father, have been steadfast in our support of the market, and spearheaded efforts to keep the market alive when many tried to close it down," Ochs said in the statement. "The past year or so has been difficult, but I am grateful to our many loyal customers and friends who have always supported our efforts. I will have exciting news soon about the future of our business, and I am hopeful that our loyal customers and our friends will share our enthusiasm for this next chapter in our family's business."

The market's stands pay rent based on a formula that includes a share of the market's annual operating expenses. Purveyors, such as Ochs, pay a smaller share than retailers of prepared foods. At 591 square feet and annual expenses of about $55 per square foot, Ochs' rent was about $2,700 a month, according to Steinke, who said the long-term future of the Ochs stand was not known.

Contact Michael Klein at mklein@philly.com.


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