FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM FEBRUARY 8, 2018 • QUEENS BUSINESS • THE QUEENS COURIER 39
Ridgewood pork store adapts with changing demographics
BY RYAN KELLEY
When Herbie Morscher’s daughter and
the Archbishop Molloy High School soft -
ball team were invited to compete in
a tournament in Italy, Morscher traveled
to Europe with her — but couldn’t
leave Ridgewood without one of his pork
store’s signature products.
Th e steak burgers, a favorite at
Morscher’s Pork Store on Catalpa Avenue,
were a special request from his daughter.
She begged him to bring burgers to cook
at the tournament, so Morscher boarded
the fl ight to Italy with a cooler bag as
his carry-on, fi lled with 80 frozen patties.
Th e Morschers’ Italian hosts held a
party at the tournament with a ton of
incredible food, but as soon as Morscher
got his hands on a spatula and a grill, the
scent of his burgers rose into the air, and
Italians fl ocked toward it, he said.
“Those burgers went like that!”
Morscher said with a snap of his fi nger
and a laugh.
With such enthusiasm for his products
and the ability to appeal to a variety
of demographics, it’s no surprise that
Morscher’s Pork Store has been at the
same location in the neighborhood since
1955. Th e Morscher family came to the
United States from Europe aft er World
War II with “nothing in their pockets, just
the will to work,” Morscher said.
His father’s cousin, Joseph Morscher,
fi rst opened the business on Onderdonk
and Greene Avenues before eventually
buying Arnot’s Pork store and renaming
it at the Catalpa Avenue location.
Morscher’s father Herbert helped his
cousin over the years and became an
offi cial partner in the business in 1981.
By 1983 they brought in a third partner,
Siegfried Strahl, who is the owner of the
building and still a partner to this day.
In the meantime, Herbie Morscher was
earning his degree in business management
at St. Francis College. Aft er graduating,
he took a job at John F. Kennedy
International Airport by day, but his
father always made him come help out in
the pork store when he got home. When
Joseph Morscher was ready to retire in
1988, Herbie was next in line to become a
partner in the family business.
“A lot of people told me not to go into
it,” Morscher said. “It was teetering, we
didn’t know which way the neighborhood
was going, there was a lot of bad
things happening around here, just seeing
drugs and the usual how a neighborhood
changes. But people have to eat, they’re
always going to be hungry.”
Morscher said it takes passion to be
successful when running a small business
like his, but fear was also a factor. He
would have nightmares of taking over the
business and then failing aft er his family
put in so much of their time, he said. But
every morning it drove him to come into
the shop and work harder.
Today, Morscher is the managing partner
along with Strahl and 17-year employee
Peter Kotarowski. On a block that used
to have as many as fi ve other butchers
years ago, Morscher’s Pork Store is the
last one standing.
Th e presence of Kotarowski, who was
made a partner fi ve years ago, signifi es the
greatest source of the pork store’s longevity.
Th e Polish native came to Ridgewood
as the neighborhood’s population shift -
ed from being heavily German to now
Polish, Romanian, Yugoslavian, Serbian,
Croatian and more.
“Little by little, we make big success
because we try to make everybody happy,
with diff erent customers and diff erent
nationalities,” Kotarowski said.
Morscher’s has made slight changes to
its recipes to match the changing tastes in
the area, but their authenticity appeals to
everyone. Th eir meats are smoked using
a state-of-the-art smoker that burns real
cherry and apple wood, and its digital
interface is so easy to program that they
don’t need a large staff in the back of the
house. In fact, Morscher’s only has two
employees other than the three part-owners.
Th is allows them to spend a little extra
money on using all-natural casings for
their meats rather than collagen casings.
Th ey also spend more to buy prime
choice cuts of meat, and nothing less.
Having a holistic approach also allows
the pork store to appeal to all generations,
and Morscher said he respects the newfound
appreciation that younger generations
have for natural foods.
Photos by Ryan Kelley/QNS
As with any small business, Morscher’s
has to battle with the typical New York
City struggles such as rising utility bill
costs and a lack of parking. Since the
business is so well established, Morscher
said that people come from Connecticut,
Pennsylvania, New Jersey and all parts of
the city to visit his store because they used
to live in Ridgewood.
“It kills me when a customer comes from
Long Island or Staten Island or Brooklyn
and they park here and then they get a
$150 ticket on top of my bill,” Morscher
said. “Th at hurts, that’s a struggle.”
Yet, having the landlord as part-owner
of the business has been another key
to success. It not only allows them to save
money on rent, but it’s a huge reason
why Morscher’s Pork Store has remained
in its founding location. Morscher said
business is as good as it’s ever been and it
improves each and every year.
To the man whose family started it all,
even aft er incorporating the tastes of the
world and taking his fl avors across the
world, Morscher said the business is right
where it belongs.
“People know you when you’re walking
around, it’s a good thing, and Ridgewood
was always known for that,” Morscher
said. “Th is is the best neighborhood,
believe me, the best people are from this
Editor’s note: Th is is the latest installment
of an open-ended series in Th e
Queens Courier and on QNS about small
businesses across Queens. Th e goal is to
highlight mom-and-pop shops and their
history, as well as their successes despite
facing competition from bigger, wellknown
retailers; and the challenges they
face in the current economic environment.
If you’re a Queens small business
owner and interested in speaking with
our editorial staff about your successes
and challenges, call 718-224-5863, ext.
204, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.