It’s no exaggeration to say that Evan Lobel grew up in the business. “After I learned to walk, my father put a knife in my hand and said, ‘Start cutting, son,’” says the fifth-generation butcher, whose father Leon began taking his young son to work at the Madison Avenue shop in the early 1960s.
Evan describes his father, who passed away in 2006, as his Superman. He was very strict and slowly brought Evan into the business by making sure he learned every aspect of the trade from sweeping the floors to working the cash register. This early training gave Evan a well-rounded approach and an understanding that no task was beneath him—he was expected to perform the work as well or better than any other employee.
Though the 59-year-old married father of three gained an early appreciation and love for the store, he wasn’t pressured to go into the family business. His longtime interest in jewelry design, pottery, and crafts prompted Evan to go off to college to study the arts. But it wasn’t long before he was back in the beloved 600-square-foot shop. “I love working with my hands and I love people,” he explained. “I look at every piece of meat as a blank canvas and I like to turn it into something beautiful to both look at and eat.” Evan considers butchering as simply a continuation of his craft—instead of clay, plaster, or precious metals, meat is his medium.
Marketing is another side of the business Evan gets excited about. He co-founded the family’s ecommerce arm of the business, Lobel’s of New York, and takes a special interest in its marketing efforts. “I really like figuring out what turns the wheel—to make someone want to be our customer,” says Evan, who has also co-authored seven books and become a nationally recognized expert in meat.
Much like his uncle Stanley, Evan describes working alongside his family as extremely rewarding. The mutual respect that his uncle and cousins, Mark and David, all show for one another makes Evan deeply grateful. More than anything else he wants each of his family members to reach their full potential. “One of the many wonderful things about my family is that we are all good at different things. We support each other and let everyone do what they do well—and let them grow and not cramp them into a little box.”
With three daughters, now aged 15, 18, and 20 who have grown up in the store, Evan suspects it will be the online, marketing side of the business they will gravitate toward. “I see the potential for big expansion online—we have really only scratched the surface,” explains Evan, who wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s the sixth generation of Lobels who help grow the ecommerce side of the company.
For now, Evan continues to take great pride in the business his family has built over 175 years that still carefully hand wraps pristine cuts of meat in brown paper bags and delivers them by bicycle to their many and loyal customers on the Upper East Side.