The guys are thrilled, and with good reason. For the second consecutive year, they have been voted the Garden State’s “Best Butcher Shop” by the readers of New Jersey Monthly magazine.
"It threw us off our feet," said Vincent Losavio, 65, who co-owns John's with his brother, Nick. “It’s an honor to win with so many meat markets in the state. The feeling is our hard work paid off."
That’s 72 years of hard work. Back in 1939, Losavio's father, John, founded the butcher shop on Park Avenue, and the mantra back then is the same as it is now: "We will go out of our way for anybody,” Nick, 63, said.
But while the Losavios' approach to customer service has not changed, their shop's products have adapted with the times. John's Meat Market now offers a wide selection of grass-fed beef, prepared dinners and side dishes, plus gourmet sauces, pastas and more. Customers can also browse the shop's selections and learn about specials through a flashy website and Facebook page.
"You keep getting the best and adding the best is the way to stay on top,” Losavio said, as he watched his son, Vincent Jr., prepare a cut of beef.
Clearly, the approach has worked. The shop has attracted celebrities such as actor Steve Guttenberg, and athletes Gerry Cooney and Carl Banks. Scotch Plains resident Ellen Renner, who stopped by the store Thursday to pick up some ground chuck for lasagna, said she has been a customer at John's since 1958 – the year she moved to the township.
“Their meat really is the best," Renner said. "It’s nice here. When you walk in, everybody knows you. It’s a very friendly place.”
The "Best Butcher Shop" award is, in fact, the shop's third award in five years. In 2006, John's Meat Market was voted the “New Jersey Family Business of the Year” by various businesses and organizations.
“Someone nominated us,” Losavio said. “We knew we were in the running, but we never thought we’d win.”
The Losavios' winning family tradition is likely to continue. Vincent Jr., 25, who has been a member of the butcher crew for four years, said he plans to stick around the store. “I’m here to keep my grandfather’s legacy,” he said with a smile. “It’s like a job, but it’s fun.”
That legacy is one of commitment and perseverance. John, who worked at the shop until shortly before his death in 2004 at age 87, regularly spent 12 to 16 hours behind the counter, six days per week, Losavio said. And in the 72 years since the shop was founded, even as Park Avenue went from a thriving downtown business district that played home to dress shops, shoe and hardware stores and the original Shop Rite, to one now struggling to fill vacancies, John's Meat Market has remained an anchor and an attraction – its blown-glass sign, lit pink at night, an evocative reminder of the shop's long heritage in Scotch Plains.
“John's Meat Market is a landmark in our town," Mayor Nancy Malool said in an email. “I'm not surprised they received this distinction two years in a row. They offer a very high quality product and a customer-friendly environment. In addition, the Losavio family is community-oriented and has always been a valued member of our town."
The store gives back in many ways: it collects food for the homeless and donates to veterans. It supports the local schools and churches. And the Losavios are regular fixtures at township functions and fundraisers.
“You know, my dad loved this business," Nick said. "He never called it work. He’d say, ‘I’m going to the store.’"
The same, it seems, holds true for the three Losavios who still wear their white butchers' aprons. "We meet the customers," Nick continued. "We have a rapport."