Stanley Lobel’s oldest son David calls himself the black sheep in the family as he spent almost seven years practicing law before eventually finding his way back to the family business at their Madison Avenue butcher shop.
“We were all indoctrinated into the business at a young age,” explains David, who describes eagerly jumping out of bed at 3 a.m. on Saturdays so that he could accompany his father to work. “It wasn’t just going to work with Dad—we would go to the meat wholesalers and I got to wear a jacket and hard hat and go into the freezing ice boxes,” he recalls fondly. Back at the shop, eight-year-old David was too young to cut meat; instead he was given a rag and a bottle of Windex and instructed to start cleaning the showcases. By late morning he would go upstairs and take a nap and look forward to what his uncle Leon and father would make them for lunch.
After spending several summers butchering in their Manhattan butcher shop, David took off to Connecticut College in New London to study Liberal Arts. Like many students he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, but soon discovered a love for computer programming and transferred to Tulane University in New Orleans where he earned a four-year degree in computer science in just two and a half years. During his time at Tulane, he enrolled in a law-related course and became intrigued. After graduation he got a job as a paralegal, which eventually led him to the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law where he earned his JD and held the prestigious position of Editor in Chief of the International Law Journal.
“I once worked six straight weeks without a day off,” says David of his grueling work as a corporate litigator in New York City. By 1999 he decided there was a better way. The father of two was tired of missing birthdays and holidays and finally agreed to the gentle encouragement from his brother, Mark, and their father to return to the family business. Now he spends his days cutting meat, talking to customers, working on building all elements of the business, and in his words, “pushing the ball a little further down the field.”
Today, David has no doubt he is where he is supposed to be, and perhaps because he has taken the circuitous route back to Lobel’s, he has a deep appreciation for the business. He acknowledges the reason they have been around for 175 years and five generations is because the family respects and cares for one another—they genuinely like each other. “This is a gift that we need to treasure and be grateful for and never take for granted.”