Mister Brisket continues to thrive
Several decades ago, butcher shops were quite common. Most people went to the butcher to get their meat products. But that has all changed. During the 1970s, big grocery-store chains, such as A&P and Kroger’s, started carrying more meat products and, as a result, most butcher shops closed. There is, however, an exception to that trend: Mister Brisket. A butcher shop and deli, Mister Brisket, located on Taylor Road just south of Cedar Road, has been around since 1973 and it is still thriving.
Sanford Herskovitz, 75, founder and owner of Mister Brisket, grew up in University Heights and still lives there. He attended Heights High and earned his bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University, a master’s degree from Kent State University, and a Ph.D. in psychology from Case Western Reserve University. His parents owned Carl’s Poultry Market, a butcher shop located at East 86th Street and Cedar Road. In 1972, his father died and his mother took over the business. She remarried and moved to Toronto, and Herskovitz, who was still in grad school, took over the business. He changed the store’s name to Mister Brisket and relocated to Cleveland’s West Side. Then, in 1978, he moved to his current location.
Despite having worked as a stockbroker and a teacher, he was inspired to get into the meat business after he and his wife threw a dinner party. “She told me to go get some steaks for the party,” Herskovitz said. “So I went over to Earl C. Gibbs’ slaughter house on the West Side and got about a dozen steaks. Our attorney was at the party, and his wife loved the meat and wanted to get more. So that really had an impact on me.”
Mister Brisket carries USDA prime beef, veal, lamb, pork, poultry and seafood. In addition to purchasing meat and seafood, Mister Brisket’s customers can also pick up corned beef and pastrami sandwiches and other items, including potato salad, cole slaw, cookies, brownies and beverages. Herskovitz also offers box lunches and party platters.
With its many holidays, including Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s, the end of the year is a very busy time for Mister Brisket. Herskovitz said the store carries special products like roasted turkey and roasted chicken for people to purchase for the holidays.
Herskovitz is very well-known and respected in the meat business. He has appeared on numerous television shows, including Joan Nathan’s “Jewish Cooking in America,” ABC’s “Home Show” and CNBC’s “Tom Snyder Show,” and he is a frequent guest on WEWS’s “Morning Exchange.”
Mister Brisket also started a program called Salamis to the Troops. Herskovitz’s stepson, Hank Kornblut, who now runs the store with him, came up with the idea for the program a few years ago after a customer, Max Chandler, came in one day and asked if the shop could send something to his son. When Kornblut asked where his son lived, Chandler told him he was serving in the armed forces in Iraq. After looking into it, Kornblut realized Mister Brisket could send salami overseas and it would stay fresh. In addition, people in the military have an Army Post Office address which enables packages and other mail to get to them rather quickly. “We shipped the salami out to Chandler’s son on a Monday and he got it by Friday,” Kornblut said. The store charges $20 for a shipment of salami to the troops, and it can be sent virtually anywhere, even to service members who are posted on aircraft carriers and other ships.
In addition to starting the Salamis to the Troops program, the 51-year-old Kornblut has suggested the store begin carrying vegetarian items. That program may start sometime next year. He added that Mister Brisket is getting many more orders from outside the Cleveland area and the store may start selling products online soon.
2156 South Taylor Road
Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
James Henke, a Cleveland Heights resident, was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone magazine for 15 years. He is also the author of several books, including biographies of Jim Morrison, John Lennon and Bob Marley.