Historic butcher reopens (again?) near Union Market

August 28, 2013

This post has been updated.

Miles Chidel is the son of 81-year-old Harvey Chidel, the namesake of Harvey's Market, the D.C. butcher shop that can trace its roots back to 1931. Neither father nor son are involved in the current Harvey's: Father retired in 2000, and son ... well, he says he just had no interest in reviving the shop at Union Market.

A photo illustration of what the forthcoming Miles & Sons Meat Market will look like. (Courtesy of Miles Chidel)
A photo illustration of what Miles & Sons Meat Market will look like. (Courtesy of Miles Chidel)

"That is not our customer base," says Miles Chidel, referring to the gastronomes who stroll through the boutique food stalls at Union Market, a property developed and managed by Edens.

No, the current Harvey's Market is owned by George Lesznar, who was a partner with Miles Chidel when the butcher shop suffered extensive damage during an October 2011 fire at the old D.C. Farmers Market. "George is married to my sister," Miles Chidel says. "We get along great. George really wanted to go back into that building. When I found out what [Edens was] doing, I wasn't interested.”

Lesznar may have the rights to the historic meat market's name, but he now has competition from the man who can claim the actual namesake as his pop: On Friday, Chidel, 48, opened Miles & Sons Meat Market at 300 Morse St. NE. And much like Lesznar, Chidel is aligning his business with the old Harvey's butcher shop, which Chidel's grandfather, Max, founded in 1931 at Northern Market (commonly known as the O Street Market) at 7th and O streets NW.

The competing meat markets, located within a block or so of each other, now raise an uncomfortable question: Which one has the better claim to the old Harvey's?

Contacted Friday, Lesznar says that when he decided to reopen Harvey's in Union Market, Miles Chidel expressed no interest whatsoever in the project — or in opening any business in the District. Lesznar says Chidel kept the legal entity, Harvey's Market, Inc., while Lesznar kept the legal name, Harvey's Market.

What's more, Lesznar says, when Chidel elected to open a meat market in the same neighborhood, the former partners signed an agreement saying that Miles & Sons would not trade on the old Harvey's name.

"We have an agreement, where he wasn’t going to [tie] his activities to Harvey’s Market," Lesznar says. "It's legally binding that he’s not supposed to use Harvey’s Market in any of his advertising and marketing references. . .We agreed that we didn’t want the costumers to confuse us.”

Part of Chidel's motivation in opening Miles & Sons, the owner notes, is to cater to the Northeast customers who used to frequent the old Harvey's at the D.C. Farmers Market but may feel alienated by the more upscale Union Market. Chidel plans to sell chuck roasts, top-blade steaks, pig's feet, pig heads, pig ears, pork chops, smoked turkey necks and other cuts of beef, pork and poultry not common at mainstream butcher shops. The store will also sell frozen fish such as whiting, trout and tilapia.

But Lesznar bristles at the idea that the new Harvey's doesn't cater to the old customer base. While Harvey's doesn't sell frozen fish, Lesznar says his shop has "almost all the meats" that Chidel mentions. The main difference, Lesznar adds, is that Harvey's must be more seasonal in selling meats because the shop is small. So he won't stock pig's feet, pig ears and the like until the fall, when customers look for such items.

"I get quite a few old customers coming in, and they’re happy that we’re here,” Lesznar says.

In the meantime, Miles & Sons opened today with a limited selection. The shop should be better stocked next week, Chidel says. "What you see now is not anything like what you're going to see next week," he adds.

Chidel is also waiting on a license from the Department of Agriculture so that Miles & Sons can accept food stamps. The pending license is the main reason why Chidel is calling Friday a "soft opening."

"I don’t want to do a grand opening until we get a food stamp license," he says. After all, without one, Chidel figures he would be alienating about 50 percent of his customers who rely on government assistance to feed themselves.

Tim Carman serves as the full-time writer for the Post's Food section and as the $20 Diner for the Weekend section, a double duty that requires ingesting more calories than a draft horse.
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