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Goodbye to Chester’s

June 19, 2018

I’ve been sitting on this story for days. Mostly because I didn’t want to admit that it was true. And perhaps, I hoped, that someone from Chester’s would change their mind and reopen the store.

What I still haven’t done is told my kids.

There may be other places to go for pierogies, liverwurst, and bacon. But I know of no other place that was making smoked veal loaf or smoked breakfast sausages. Part of me is contemplating asking the crew at Rolf’s if they could smoke some breakfast sausages. I wonder what the minimum order would be for something like that.

In my heart of hearts I hope that a few of the key people from the operation can reorganize and find someway to open again. Even though Mark, who bankrolled the operation has passed away, Chester himself is still very much alive, as is Mark’s son Ken, and their crew.

When a beloved local business closes, I think it’s appropriate to eulogize it a bit.

The thing is, almost nobody who loved Chester’s Smokehouse knew Mark. I know I never met the man. But we know what he was able to bring to our community. The answer is, a tremendous quantity of deliciousness and joy.

Food businesses never last forever. And even if they do, they change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Which is why it’s ever important to remember to get out there and spend some time in those local businesses you love.

Choose to be glad you got a chance to experience something while it was great, instead of mourning its passing. For all things pass.

What will I miss most?

For me, it’s the smoked blue cheese. That was my guilty pleasure. My friends at The Cheese Traveler would shake their heads in dismay, because it wasn’t great cheese. It was industrial blue cheese, that had been transformed by the smoker into something wonderful. I would microwave it with Frank’s Red Hot and pour it on tater tots, leftover pasta, or anything I wanted to turn into some kind of buffalo sauced deliciousness.

But those smoked breakfast sausages are a close second. Our friends from DC were counting on us bringing a few pounds of those to the summer rental house in July. Those little links were great because not only could you eat them cold right from the fridge, but you could snack on them hiking, or gently warm them up in a skillet for a civilized sit down meal.

Since these sausages were already cooked by smoke, they only needed to be warmed through. In the skillet their casings would tighten, and the links would become a joyful, snappy burst of fat and flavor.

The liverwurst pate was also a perpetual favorite of mine, although nobody else in family shared in that love. I was never able to make it into a Chester’s style Polish banh mi. But that’s the breaks.

For customers, it’s a bummer. But for friends and loved ones, there is a profound sense of loss. My best wishes and deepest sympathies go to Mark’s family. He helped to bring something beautiful into this world. Chester’s was a gem, and it’s clear to see, because those who got to experience it are feeling a profound sense of loss… for a store.

That’s no small feat. And the world needs as much beauty as it can get. Sometimes that comes in the form of art or music. Other times it comes in the form of smoked meats and cheeses.

I’m glad I got to experience the shop as much as I did, and to be the beneficiary of Mark’s vision of an Albany fed by his friend Chester.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Zena, Goddess of Fire permalink
    June 19, 2018 9:50 am

    I will miss Chesters’ double smoked keilbasa very very much. Poop.

  2. June 19, 2018 10:19 am

    Growing up in a Ukrainian family it was really nice to have a store that sold all the flavors of my childhood; from kishka, kapusta, the coarse liverwurst, the best rye bread, not to mention the pierogies and kielbasa. A very sad loss for the area, even my family in Syracuse will miss it.

  3. Josh K permalink
    June 19, 2018 10:23 am

    Sucks so much. Big loss.

  4. KingOfBeacon permalink
    June 19, 2018 10:53 am

    I never had a chance to try them out since moving to the area. Shame.

  5. June 19, 2018 11:31 am

    Sad. Out our way, we’re losing our local butcher shop:

    https://www.spotlightnews.com/news/2018/05/02/falvos-up-for-sale/

  6. -R. permalink
    June 19, 2018 11:42 am

    I do believe I may have shed a tear or two upon hearing the news. Goodbye chorizo.

  7. Kimmer permalink
    June 19, 2018 12:25 pm

    all the smoked cheese, smoked shrimp, kielbasa so sorry to lose this special place

  8. Deedee permalink
    June 19, 2018 1:02 pm

    Oh, no! Just this morning I suggested Chester’s to someone who was craving home-made pierogies.

  9. June 19, 2018 1:49 pm

    A second on the smoked blue cheese. I also found their beef jerky the best I’ve had. And right at the end I discovered their soppressata for just $8.99/lb. Will sure miss that one. OTOH, maybe the low prices made the business unsustainable….

  10. Brian S permalink
    June 19, 2018 9:33 pm

    The Black and Blue sandwich with smoked blue cheese may be one of the greatest things ever invented.

  11. Jenn Vett permalink
    June 23, 2018 9:58 pm

    Hickory Hill Smokehouse makes a great smoked blue cheese, and the smoked kielbasa is great too. http://www.hickoryhillsmokehouse.com
    In Schenectady area.

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