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Menna can’t make ends meat

Some fifty years of rib eye and rump roast, spare rib and tenderloin on E. Tremont Avenue in Throggs Neck ground beef to a halt in late January, when Menna’s Meats and Salumeria shut down.

Owner Michael Menna, son of the meat market’s original owner, hopes to reopen a meat, fish and produce market near the corner of Schley and Vincent avenues. He’s already established a meat counter at the deli there.

But Menna’s was an E. Tremont Avenue landmark and will be missed. The neighborhood has the economic recession and hostile meter maids to blame, Menna explained.

“It was every day with the tickets,” he said. “I had customers come to me 30 or 40 years. They get $115 parking tickets and I don’t see them anymore.”

Menna’s late father, also Michael, was a neighborhood man. A veteran, he helped launch the Throggs Neck Veteran’s Day Parade and funded Throggs Neck’s annual Christmas tree celebration. Menna’s still sponsors a Throgs Neck Little League team.

“I grew up in the market,” Menna said. “I remember it busy. You knew everybody and everybody knew you. My whole family pitched in: my uncles, my cousins.”

Menna’s father and uncles learned the meat market trade from his great uncles. Menna often starts to prepare an order before a longtime customer is through the door.

“I ask, ‘How many chicken cutlets?’” he said. “But I know they want 14.”

Menna’s moved from E. Tremont and Miles avenues to E. Tremont Avenue between Philip Avenue and Scott Place, across from the post office, roughly two years ago. Menna asked not to discuss that move. But he would discuss how the move went sour.

“The meter maids were big,” Menna said. “I had customers come in to pick up Thanksgiving turkeys get ticketed. I had customers doubled-parked, waiting for a spot, get ticketed. There was no mercy.”

There weren’t enough parking spots, Menna explained. Bus stops designed for tandem buses stretch three-fourths of the block. Customers would circle for 20 minutes, then head to a supermarket, he said. Menna asked the Department of Transportation to trim the bus stops but was rebuffed.

“I had to raise the white flag,” he said.

The economic recession that began in 2008 also hurt the store. Customers turned conservative, Menna said. They’d choose chopped meat rather than buy steaks. He did his best to keep Menna’s open – shortened employee hours and cut costs. By the end, Menna had only four employees.

“I hung on for months,” he said. “When I couldn’t make ends meet, I knew it was time to close. I felt bad.”

Fortunately, Seamus Carey from the Wicked Wolf bar and restaurant stepped in. He and Menna hope to reopen an expanded market in the apartment next door to Carey’s S&E Market at Schley and Vincent avenues. In the interim, Menna is inside the deli. Although the new corner sits blocks from busy E. Tremont Avenue, it has advantages, Menna said. More parking spots, for example.

“When people try the new location, they’ll find it more convenient,” he promised.

One could argue that the demise of Menna’s on E. Tremont Avenue heralds the death of neighborhood meat markets in the Bronx.

But when it reopens, Menna’s will continue to offer the personal touches that help family businesses survive, Menna said.

Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or dbeekman@cnglocal.com

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