Tony's Market - In the News
From “The Bulletin” March 10, 2005
By Kennan Knudson
For almost 40 years, Tony DeBenedictis has been the owner, sausage-maker, and only employee of Tony’s Market, on the edge of Roslindale Square.
A few weeks ago, he was almost tempted to leave when new owners of the restaurant next door offered to take over his space. In the end, though, it didn’t work out, and he’s glad.
“For me, at my age, where am I going to go now?” he wondered last week. “I love what I’m doing.”
Tony’s Market is an institution in Roslindale Square and Boston at large. Tony says 75 percent of his business comes from outside Roslindale. People know it for a place where they can get highest-quality imported cheeses like the famous para reggiano or provolone, prime beef, fresh rabbits and even whole lambs for Easter.
Last year, when Green Orthodox Easter and Christian Easter coincided, Tony sold 80 lambs.
After so long in the business, he knows his products. A young couple with a child, one of many new families in the neighborhood, wanders in, looking for some good steaks for that night’s dinner. They ask for sirloin, but Tony directs them to rib eye for a change of pace.
“It’s the same price as sirloin, and just as tender – you can even fry it, it’s so tender,” he says. “You want more lean or more fatty? Here, I will show you…” and goes behind the meat counter and pulls out easily a 20 pound slab of beef. He asks how thick they want the steaks, slices off two inc-thick rib-eye steaks and gets approval from the customer. He hand-trims the meat, wraps the steaks in pink butcher’s paper, puts the whole thing in a plastic bag and pushis his gold rimmed glasses back up on his nose.
Tony grew up near Naples, Italy, and came to the United States as a young man. In 1958, shortly after arriving, he was working as a stitcher in a clothing factory. But the work didn’t really suit him.
“I was getting bored,” he said. “I wanted to go into business, so one day…(he says, with a shrug of the shoulders, turn of the mouth, and there-you-go gesture)…I opened the store. I didn’t know anything about business, or about meat, or about anything – people came in and asked for Campbell’s soup and I didn’t know what it was!”
That was November 11, 1963, and the store was in East Dedham.
At 66, Tony still remembers dates easily and apparently accurately; only his more-white-than-gray salt and peppered hair gives his age away. At five feet tall, he’s slender and small but carries himself with a strength and grace bornes from years of carrying big pieces of meat and cheese, and ballroom dancing three times a week.
He moved to Roslindale six years later and the store has been almost the same every since. That’s almost certainly how it will stay, says Tony.
“The man who sold me the store worked with me until he died,” he said, shrugging, “Who knows? Maybe I will do that, too.”