Poultry business an institution at Hollins Market
It is 6 o’clock on a chilly Saturday morning. Most people are still asleep. But inside Hollins Market a small group of workers are bustling about, moving boxes of chicken and turkey from a cooler to a display case in the center of the market at Jack’s Poultry.
An hour later customers start streaming through the doors to do their weekend shopping. One of the first to arrive at Jack’s is a middle aged woman named Stephanie Brown, who has been shopping there since she was seven years old.
“I remembered my first visit to this market when I did grocery shopping with my grandmother,” said Brown, pictured above. “Now I myself have become a grandparent, but I still come here to buy fresh chicken wings.”
Her story isn’t unusual. A steady stream of loyal customers show up to shop at Jack’s, which is the most popular stall in Hollins Market, according to the office of Baltimore Public Markets.
Ben David stocks the display cases at Jack’s Poultry in the Hollins Market, one of six public markets in Baltimore. The market was built in 1829 and Jack’s Poultry has been there for more than 70 years. Ironically, as well known as Jack’s Poultry has become, few people realize that none of the family members working there are named “Jack.” David, who is one of the co-owners of Jack’s Poultry, explains the source of the confusion. “My grandfather, Irvin, took the stall from a person named Jack about 70 years ago,” David said. “So people have called my grandfather ‘Mr. Jack’ ever since.”
The peak day for shopping at Hollins Market is Saturday, which is also the busiest day of the week for Jack’s Poultry. The slowest day is Monday, because years ago the market used to be closed that day. Hollins Market is 20 minutes from Downtown by car or bus. The city wants to modernize the market, but Ben David and his father, Chuck Chaplan, fear that a rent increase could force them to move to another location. David said the family is committed to staying in Hollins Market if at all possible. “Maybe the rent will rise and there will be some changes in the market, but we will stay here,” David said. “We just want to provide our customers with the freshest food they can get.”
Ben David spends up to an hour preparing poultry meat for display. Chicken wings are the best seller at Jack’s. Smoked turkey is sold only on Saturdays, and helps to bring in weekend customers
Ben David chops a fresh turkey neck. David says he enjoys working with his father. “Chuckie has done a lot for the stall, as well as our family,” David said. “The reason why I chose to help him with our business is because it is the best and the easiest way to get together with my family.”
A plastic chicken is displayed on the wall of Jack’s Poultry. David said it was there before he started working at Jack’s.
Chuck Chaplan, Ben’s father, usually works six 12-hours days every week. Ben David, works a more normal 40 hours’ week.
Jack’s Poultry is a family owned business. Three pictures hanging on the glass show Mary Dudley, a good friend of Chuck Chaplan’s on the left, a picture of Ben David and his girlfriend, Jaira Boone, center, and a photo of Chaplan with a daily special on the right.
In addition to his job at Jack’s Poultry, Ben David teaches tennis at Twin Lakes Racquet Club in suburban Baltimore, which is only five minutes’ drive from his house. David says he usually teaches tennis for about 15 hours a week, but it may vary depending on how busy he gets working at the market.
Ben David chats with a woman after tutoring her in tennis at Twin Lakes Racquet Club.
Ben David is at work before daybreak to prepare for business on a Saturday. Jack’s Poultry leases five refrigerated storage units at Hollins Market. One of them is saved for Thanksgiving sales.
The chicken is stocked in a cooler at a temperature just above freezing until it is put on display.
Jack’s Poultry retails chicken packaged by Perdue. The company is a national wholesaler, but it’s based in Maryland. Ben David says the chicken Jack’s sells is raised locally and sold fresh.
Ben David stacks whole chickens before Hollins Market opens on Saturday. David says an attractive display makes customers more likely to make a purchase.
Ben David, packs up chicken wings for a customer. Working behind him are Timothy Dudley left, Chuck Chaplan, center, and Jaira Boone, David’s girlfriend.
Melissa Barber has been a customer at Jack’s Poultry for more than 20 years. She grew up in the neighborhood but now loves closer to the city center. On this Saturday morning, she was shopping for fresh chicken wings.
Smoked turkey is only offered on Saturday at Jack’s Poultry, the day when most people go to the market.
James Blackney was born and raised in the Hollins Market neighborhood and now lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. “It is one of my weekly routine to come here and buy food every time when I visit my grandchildren in Baltimore,” said Blackney.
Philip Lowery, left, and Ben David enjoy some friendly banter on a Saturday morning at Hollins Market as a woman steps to the counter to place her order.
(This story was photographed and reported by Yukai Peng for the Baltimore Project, a multimedia workshop exploring the impact of urban development in Baltimore. This project is a collaboration between The Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications at Penn State University and The School of Global Journalism and Communication at Morgan State University.)