Longstanding Butcher Shop Expands at Court Street Plaza

Posted on February 22, 2022 by sujvary

Avril-Bleh Meat Market Updates Space as Part of Broader 3CDC Project

CINCINNATI (February 22, 2022) – Longstanding butcher shop Avril-Bleh Meat Market is hosting the grand opening of its new space today. The new space is part of a broader redevelopment project with Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC). Located at 37 E. Court Street, Avril-Bleh has been under construction for roughly six months to make updates and expand the popular 850 square-foot shop.

During the course of Avril-Bleh Meat Market’s 128-year tenure, it has seen five generations of owners in two families. It has been a Cincinnati staple since 1894, where owners originally manufactured sausage at home in Camp Washington and took it by horse and buggy to the Court Street Market and Findlay Market. It sold German-centric lunch meats—think pickle, pepper and olive loaf—and eventually offered more than 40 varieties. Len Bleh was an employee of Avril’s and 24 years ago, he bought it.

This industry is in his blood. “I’ve been doing this since I was 14,” Bleh said. “I started out the way you do when you’re in a family business—at the bottom—doing dishes, cleaning equipment, wrapping and simple stuff like that.”

Then, as so often happens in a family business, he worked his way up, learning how to cut up and prepare meat. He’s now in his 50th year in this business and has added more than 20 new varieties of sausages and lunch meats. Avril-Bleh thrives on word-of-mouth and generational customers. The shop hasn’t changed a whole lot, so customers return time and time again because they know the quality product they’re getting. It has spent more than 100 years building a good reputation that has made it a customer favorite.

A couple years ago, Bleh hired a chef to create pre-cooked menu items including mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, and other side dishes, including 12 soups, to complement a meal. The homemade Chicken Pot Pies are created from scratch in-house. “We’ve expanded our menu quite a bit and it’s paid off,” Bleh said.

In addition to menu expansion, supplying meat to several local restaurants—Zip’s, Sacred Beast, and many more—led Bleh to see the need to physically expand as well. Bleh approached 3CDC as plans were being formed for the redevelopment of Court Street Plaza. His building needed work; windows needed updating and the space needed a facelift. Bleh wanted the building to look good and fit in with the new businesses that would stretch across the plaza.

Bleh’s need aligned with the 3CDC-led residential renovation project that’s now underway in the adjacent buildings. Avril Lofts is a $5.28 million project that also involves the restoration of four historic buildings, bringing 14 new residential condo units along with the updates to Avril-Bleh. The meat market’s renovations will include a larger and newer retail shop; a walkup grill room that will replace the tent that’s currently outside on the plaza; and a new meat counter and cooler. The 3,700 square-foot retail shop will feel brand new.

After approaching 3CDC with his ideas, Bleh said the transition from construction to completion was very smooth. “We had several meetings where I talked about what I wanted to do and how to go about it. I wouldn’t have known how to go about doing this without 3CDC leading the way,” he said.

“Avril-Bleh Meat Market is an institution in Cincinnati and partnering with Len Bleh to expand and reinvent his space has been really rewarding,” Sara Bedinghaus, Senior Development Officer of 3CDC, said. “The enhanced deli and walk-up window will elevate Court Street Plaza and improve lunchtime options for Downtown workers and residents, many of whom are loyal patrons of Avril-Bleh.”

While the new space is officially open today, Avril-Bleh will celebrate with a springtime event once the second phase of his shop is complete.

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