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Butterfield Market to expand beyond Manhattan with new Long Island City location and commissary kitchen

The Butterfield Market on Lexington Avenue. Photo courtesy of Butterfield

Apr. 25, 2024 By Queens Post News Team

Upscale Upper East Side grocery store Butterfield Market is set to open a new location in Long Island City next year. The store will operate a retail space and a 9,000-square-foot commissary kitchen. 

Butterfield Market, which currently operates locations on Madison Avenue and Lexington Avenue on the Upper East Side, will open a third location at 29-17 40th Ave. early next year, marking its first expansion out of Manhattan. 

Butterfield CEO Evan Obsatz said the company will expand its catering business to Long Island City next January. The business is currently confined to the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side. 

Founded in 1915, Butterfield Market has been owned by the Obsatz family for 50 years. It offers a range of freshly prepared seasonal meals, including pasta, soups, sandwiches, tacos and salads. It also offers a wide range of pastries, fresh-pressed juices and frozen yogurt. 

The team behind Butterfield (Left to right): Evan Obsatz, CEO; Ann Obsatz (his mother); Joelle Obsatz (Chief Marketing officer); and Alan Obsatz (father, former owner). Photo courtesy of Butterfield

Obsatz said the company has expanded to LIC to meet the growing demand for products, adding that it is almost impossible to find a space large enough for a commissary kitchen on the Upper East Side. 

He said the company signed a lease for the space last November and has spent the past five months planning and designing the new kitchen and retail operation, stating that construction is set to begin in June. 

Obsatz added that there are some issues to overcome before the opening of the LIC location, including the logistics of moving products across the Queensboro Bridge to the two Upper East Side locations before the morning traffic. 

Butterfield will bring around 60-70 employees from its existing locations to the new Queens space. He also plans to hire an additional 20 staff for the new location, including delivery personnel and kitchen staff. 

Obsatz said the expansion to Queens is also a personal experience, citing numerous familial connections to the borough. 

He said his mother was born and raised in Flushing, while his great-grandparents operated a market in Middle Village. He recalled traveling to Queens every Sunday for family dinners and said it was an added bonus to be expanding the company into Queens. 

“It’s fantastic. My mother is all excited about it. It really is nice,” Obsatz said. “I have a lot of memories in Queens – my first job out of college was in Queens. I also remember going out to my grandparents’ place every Sunday and we’d go to this old Italian restaurant that’s no longer there.” 

Obsatz’s grandfather bought Butterfield Market in 1974, predating the era of large supermarket chains, with the store pivoting to an upscale grocery store in 1990 to set it apart from the many chains operating in the city. He added that the store still retains its community ethos and said he hopes to bring that community engagement to Long Island City when the new location opens next January. 

“We have ten guiding principles for our business, and one of them is being an active member of our community,” Obsatz said. “We’ll definitely do some outreach.” 

The LIC expansion is a change of direction for Butterfield and Obsatz, who have resisted the urge to expand the business in order to retain the quality of their product. 

“Over the past 10 or 15 years, we’ve invested in really great people and put an emphasis on serving great food,” Obsatz said. “What really sets us apart is our prepared foods and the quality of it.

Catering dish. Photo courtesy of Butterfield

“We have seasonal menus that constantly change. We strive to get the best quality ingredients. That’s really paid off because all of these big chains get to a point where they become so large that it’s hard to maintain their quality. If a store is making 100 gallons of soup, for example, it’s hard to ensure they retain that quality.

“We strive to keep [Butterfield] small enough that we don’t run into those problems.” 

He added that he does not believe the LIC expansion will threaten the quality of the food produced at Butterfield. 

“We’re maybe looking to open one or two more locations, but we’re certainly not trying to be all over the world. We want to be able to go into each of our locations and know everyone’s name.” 

He described Butterfield Market as a family business looking to build for the long term, adding that they will seek to consistently improve the Long Island City location over the next 20 years or more. 

Butterfield Market is heavily involved in several community projects on the Upper East Side. It establishes relationships with local schools and precincts and provides catering for monthly community council meetings. 

Obsatz said he hopes to build similar connections in Long Island City and added that Butterfield Market’s small scale allows it to maintain and cultivate those relationships. 

“If you’re scattered all over the city, you lose that personal touch.” 

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