Upscale butcher shop Fleishers turned the lights back on at its Brooklyn flagship on March 18, eight months after a large-scale employee walkout forced the company to temporarily shut down its four shops in New York and Connecticut.
In early March, Fleishers started posting updates to its social media feeds signaling a forthcoming return in Park Slope at 192 Fifth Avenue, near Sackett Street. The shop — along with Fleishers other outposts on the Upper East Side, Westport, and Greenwich, Connecticut — had been closed since last July, when about three dozen employees staged a walkout after CEO John Adams removed signs supporting Black Lives Matter and LGBTQIA+ movements from two of Fleishers’ four storefronts.
On Instagram, a slew of commenters called out the company around its return without addressing last year’s controversy. “Just gonna not mention the fact that you don’t support BLM?” one commenter wrote in a since-deleted message. “Just figured you’d wait some time, restaff, and everyone would forget about it? Why not just apologize and do better? Maybe after awhile people will start shopping there, again. You’re in NYC, not fucking Nebraska.”
Following Adams’s call with Eater on March 25, all comments have disappeared on three of Fleishers’ three Instagram posts this month that have teased the company’s reopening.
According to Adams, the company doesn’t plan post any public statement about the incident and employee allegations. “We’re not going to put out some statement for an event that happened eight months ago,” Adams says. “I don’t think that is productive for my employees. I don’t think it is productive for the community that we’re in. I don’t think it is helpful for our customers.”
Staffers at the company rose up against the butcher shop last summer, when Fleishers’ biggest investor, Robert Rosania, allegedly directed Adams to take down signs displaying support of Black Lives Matter and Pride at the company’s Park Slope and Westport stores. Fleishers staffers — approximately half of which identified as LGBTQIA+ or BIPOC, according to employee estimates — banded together across the butchery’s locations to engage in a company-wide walkout to protest the removal of the signs.
Rosania’s alleged message was the latest misstep at a company, employees claimed, that was increasingly devaluing its shop workers while billing itself as a butcher shop committed to, at least according to its website at the time, “making a positive difference.”
Following the walkout, roughly half of the company’s 40 staffers resigned. (Adams put the signs back at the Park Slope and Westport shops within the same day, and sent an internal apology note to staffers, but the action felt insufficient, employees said at the time.) Rosania is still an investor at the company, according to Adams, although he is no longer the majority investor.
Adams regrets how quickly he took the signs down without having a conversation with staff first — which is why he put them back up, he says — but a new rule is now being enforced. As Fleishers reboots, none of the stores will display any signage for Black Lives Matter or any other group. “It’s not appropriate for our company,” Adams says. “If I’m really going to be fair and balanced, that means I will let all signs up in the window. And we can’t do that.” Instead, Adams says his solution to provide more support for employees could involve taking steps like donating food to a charity that an employee supports.
Fleishers was founded in 2004 by Joshua and Jessica Applestone, who left the company in 2013 amid dipping sales. Rosania, a deep-pocketed real estate developer, joined Fleishers as an investor in 2015. There was a new focus on eliminating the company’s past debts at steep costs, employees alleged last summer, including letting vendors go unpaid and running shops that were shortstaffed and relied on low-paying positions. Adams, who joined Fleishers in May 2021 as the company’s fifth CEO in five years, declined to speak on specific incidents that happened prior to his employment, but acknowledges that the company was not paying its employees enough money for the jobs they were expected to perform.
During the temporary closure, Fleishers spent “over a million dollars” reworking its operation, Adams says. The starting salary for entry-level hourly employees is “in the twenties” now, and butchers are paid “at the upper end” of comparable industry wages, according to Adams, although he declined to share specific numbers. The company is now employing 15 to 20 staffers, one-third of whom are Fleishers veterans.
The butcher shop’s three other locations remain temporarily closed for now, according to Adams, although they will reopen one by one as the company ramps up its operation.