Fresh meat, sandwiches, produce, and prepared foods are coming soon to an old gas station near you.
Max Gitlen of Meadowlark Butcher and Grocer has proposed to open a butcher shop at 561-569 Centre St., the site of the old JP Gas station. He presented his plan to the community at the Jamaica Pond Association (JPA) meeting on March 2, and it was generally very well-received by the community.
“My big thing that I wanted to do is open a local and sustainably sourced butcher shop here in JP,” Gitlen, also a JP resident, said. “I know how much this community cares about sustainable food and locally sourced food.”
What he and his team are proposing to do is to give the site a “significant face lift,” he said. He said that the landlord of the property has already completed environmental remediation on the site. Gitlen wants to keep the existing building to house the butchery program, takeaway prepared foods, and grocery program. The proposed operating hours for the shop are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m.-8 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Gitlen also proposed to have a package store license for malt/wine beverages for off-premise consumption.
“All of the meat byproduct and waste would be kept in an exterior walk-in cooler to be picked up during operating hours,” he said, adding that there would also be monitoring of the site by staff for trash and refuse pickup. Cleanliness of the site is a “huge concern for me,” he said.
Under the canopy, Gitlen proposed to have three picnic tables where people can enjoy a cup of soup or a freshly made sandwich from the shop. The rest of the site will be for parking, with seven parking spots along the back fence. The lot will have a security camera, and car idling in the lot will be prohibited.
There will also be a planted border along the sidewalk, which could also be a fence if that’s what the community prefers, Gitlen said.
Gitlen said he has spoken with several of the immediate abutters, and brought with him a stack of letters of support for the shop.
JPA member Franklyn Salimbene said that while he agrees that this is a good use of the site, he is concerned about litter and asked Gitlen what types of containers he was considering for food to be consumed on-site.
Gitlen said that he only intends for people to consume sandwiches and possibly cups of soup on the premises, and he plans on using brown paper to wrap sandwiches and wax paper cups for the soup. He also said that “anything that can be compostable will be,” including spoons and compostable plastic would be used for the takeaway prepared foods.
While he said there will be no table service, there are outdoor trash bins in the proposal, and the shop cashier will have a straight view out of the glass door so they can keep an eye on the inside of the store as well as the outdoor eating area.
There was also concern about making sure beer and wine are consumed off-premises, and Gitlen said there will be signage saying that it is for off-premises consumption only, and he reiterated that staff will be working with a clear line of sight to make sure no one is consuming the alcohol on site.
Rebecca Robertson, a nearby neighbor, said that she is “very much in favor” of the shop, adding that she has “been hoping that something wonderful like this would go in there.” She said she looks forward to walking there and buying fresh local food.
Another neighbor also said she was looking forward to the proposed green space and likes the job opportunities that the shop will offer the community. Someone else mentioned that he was pleased with Max’s attention to concern from neighbors and his transparency and willingness to work with them as a neighbor and business owner.
There were a few issues surrounding the existing curb cut that neighbors were concerned about, but Gitlen said that a row of planters or a fence will help with that.
“This is good, really very good and welcome,” said Gert Thorn, a member of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council. He suggested that Gitlen look into adding larger plantings to bring in even more green space.
Gitlen said that he wants the green space to be as open and lush as possible, and the renderings presented at the meeting were only initial representations of the landscape plan, which has yet to be fully developed.
After hearing feedback from the neighbors, the JPA voted not to oppose the project along with several provisos, many of which were outlined in a letter from the direct abutters that was presented at the meeting. Such provisos include use of a parking lot security camera, a site-wide tobacco ban, snow removal, ADA accessibility, installation of bike racks, and a litter control plan, among other things. The JPA also said they would like to see Gitlen have a chain that would block off the entrance and exit to the driveway after the shop is closed down for the night. Gitlen said he anticipates opening this shop late this year. “As a longtime neighborhood resident with 15 years working in local food systems, I’m excited to bring this new source for sustainability and locally produced meats, groceries, and more to JP,” Gitlen told the Gazette. “I am delighted to have found the community and neighbors to be just as receptive to the project as I’d imagined. We have a truly special neighborhood, and I can’t wait to open this vibrant and green new business on Centre St.”