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In an effort to get pushcart vendors off city streets in the 1930s, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia set up several public markets, and Arthur Avenue Retail Market in the Bronx continues to be one of the most vibrant. Though the utilitarian buildings project civic blandness at its worst, the vendors more than compensate in vitality and color. Merchants at Arthur Avenue, many first- and second-generation Italians, continue to speak the native tongue with locals and customers traveling there from Long Island and New Jersey.

Michael Rella and Peter Servedio, butchers at Peter’s Meat Market, housed in the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, which was established in 1940 by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. Photo: Tom Stoelker.
Michael Rella and Peter Servedio, butchers at Peter’s Meat Market, housed in the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, which was established in 1940 by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. Photo: Tom Stoelker.

Peter Servedio started there as a butcher in 1962. “The only two years I was missing was when I got drafted to go to Vietnam,” he said. “Then I came right back and I just loved it. I got discharged in ’69; in ’70 I took over.” He hired his nephew, Michael Rella, after Rella graduated from nearby Lehman College with a bachelor’s in economics, “in case something happens.” Rella had emigrated from Puglia, Italy, in 1966 after the rest of the family had already settled in. Just as they were making a home, the remainder of the borough was falling apart. “There was a time, especially in this neighborhood, when there were a lot of empty lots and many people moving out. But we loved the business, we loved the people,” said Servedio. “So we decided to build it up to what it is today.”

Soon Rella became a partner, and the two were joined by employees reflective of today’s revived Bronx.

“It’s a very diverse butcher shop: we have Mexicans, Albanians, Guyanese—all very excellent workers. They all have working papers, legal, which is important,” he said. “We take care of them, obviously. Most have been here for over 20 years, which is amazing, because usually you don’t hear that in a company anymore.”

Keep reading:

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2. SoHo, Manhattan: Charles Leslie, Founder of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, at the Museum
> Arthur Avenue, the Bronx: Michael Rella and Peter Servedio, Butchers at Peter’s Meat Market, the Arthur Avenue Retail Market
4. Garment District, Manhattan: Nicola Caito and Camille Tetard, Patternmakers, at their Atelier
5. Grand Concourse, the Bronx: Basma Sheea, Bengali-American Singer, at the Andrew Freeman Home
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6. Grand Concourse, the Bronx: Elissa Carmona, Lead Singer and Founder of the Marrisania Band Project, at the Bronx Museum of the Arts
7. Washington Heights, Manhattan: John Paul Enfante, Writer and Teacher, at the Hispanic Society
8. Midtown, Manhattan: Ness McKelvey at Home
9. St. George, Staten Island: Bain Coffman and Gui Junta, Restaurant Owners at Chang Noi Thai
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