Rockaway At Work


Tom Murphy, Owner, Curran’s Superior Meats


Have you ever wondered what people do all day at their jobs?  I have, and that’s the basis for this column, Rockaway at Work.

What does the owner of a butcher shop do? Tom Murphy starts his day at 7 a.m., two full hours before the store opens. Checking the refrigerators and freezers, and his stock are his primary concern. Are they at the correct temperature? Is everything chilled and fresh? 

Then the first of two daily deliveries arrives…. beef, chicken, pork, lamb, veal… fresh every day. He inspects the order for correctness and quality, being confident the wholesalers know he will refuse any meat not up to his customers’ standards.

After the delivery, the prep work begins. I came early in the morning to watch the meat being cut. Taking a huge section of meat and cutting precisely at the right spot to make it into roast beef, or cutting chicken breast, paper thin to make cutlets, is an art. I was fascinated watching him make a turkey breast boneless, tie it for cooking, and add a pop-up thermometer. That is the epitome of customer service.

He also set up the trays, readying the meat for the counter. The chop meat is ground fresh every day. Many different varieties of sausages are also made on the premises, including cheese and parsley, pepper and onion, and chicken and broccoli sausage.

Once the counters are set with prime rib steak, London broil, chop meat, chickens, lamb chops, pork loins etc., the store is ready to open.  Also on display is gourmet meat loaf (beef, pork, and veal combo), Italian style cutlets, stuffed chicken breast, and pepper steak, marinated in Kansas City juices.  Curran’s is well-known for its Kansas City Steak, marinated with soy sauce, garlic, ginger, onions, etc. It is always available, but just to be sure, order in advance.

Murphy went behind the counter when it was busy to help out. I watched him wait on customers, knowing most by name.  “It is important to make sure the customer comes out happy. We only have one chance to get it right. There are no second chances for a first impression,” says Murphy. “It is important to listen to our customers. They dictate the terms of how I run my business.” 

While he was behind the counter, I had the opportunity to ask some customers why they shopped at Curran’s. Over and over again, I got the same answers, “quality” and “service.” One woman summed it up, “The prices are good. The food is delicious. You’re guaranteed a good meal; they stand by their product.” 

Part of Murphy’s job is to pay bills, handle the payroll, and do the banking. He also posts daily on the Curran’s Facebook page. Murphy says one of the reasons he loves his job is because he’s “able to talk with the community. Some jobs, you don’t deal with people; you’re stuck in a cubicle. I have a passion for what I do. This is very self-fulfilling.”

The store is closed on Sundays, but Murphy is hard at work, making his famous macaroni and cheese for ‘Mac and Cheese Mondays.’ I couldn’t get the recipe out of him, but he did tell me it includes buttermilk, four cheeses, and jumbo elbow macaroni. When I was there, it was a big seller.

Murphy told me how proud and happy he is with his staff.  Working for him behind the counter are two Sams…. father and son, Pedro and Danny, all working full-time with Stephen, Paul and Chris as the part-timers. His cashiers are Fatima, Nancy and Hannah. “You are only as good as the men and women behind you, and I’ve been blessed with the help I have,” Murphy said.

More than 30 years ago, when Murphy was 20 years old, he was hired and trained by John Curran to be a butcher. He worked for Curran until 2006, when he bought the business. The original store was on Beach 129th Street, but Murphy had to move it to Beach 116th Street after Hurricane Sandy. 

Curran’s, located at 239 Beach 116th Street, is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Long hours, seven days a week, managing a busy store…Rockaway works hard.

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