Brian Provost grew up in a close-knit family that valued sharing a meal together.
“Every single dinner we had as a family,” said Provost, owner of the recently opened Corner Butcher Block in Caldwell. “Every Sunday we had dinner at my grandmother’s house.”
Last week, Provost took over the space on Park Avenue that was home to Vila Meats for more than 30 years. Among his plans is to introduce prepared dinners, he said, so that customers can go home and eat as a family as if they cooked themselves.
The 23-year-old from Naples, Fla. uprooted to Essex County in December, working alongside Vila's Larry Rosanio to learn the operation before taking over in mid-January.
Provost said while some things will remain familiar to Vila’s long-time loyal customers, he plans to gradually introduce new products and services.
“We’re a completely new business,” he said. “We just happen to be a butcher.”
For now, the hours are the same: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and there will continue to be free delivery. Provost also kept some of the employees so customers can expect familiar faces behind the counter.
Corner Butcher Block will continue to sell bread from Nicolo’s Italian Bakery in Montclair, as well as cheeses from the same vendor Vila used and fresh produce to complete the meal.
But some of the Italian specialty products, such as pastas and tomatoes sauces, will be phased out as Provost brings in new products.
As for the meats, Corner Butcher Block will be more of a “general” butcher, whereas Vila had an Italian flair. There will be housemade sausages, as well as natural and grass-fed meats.
His niche will be, “the best quality meat you can get at reasonable prices.”
The business will go high-tech, too. Customers will be able to view and order products on the website, which is currently under construction.
This is not the first time the Floridian has ventured to the Northeast. Provost played football at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y. his freshman year, but his career ended abruptly due to an injury.
When he found himself at a crossroads, he realized he wanted to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and go into the food business. Provost’s maternal grandfather ran the American restaurant O’Shea’s on Marco Island until he sold the business in 1996. At one time, O’Shea’s employed both of Provost’s parents, as well as aunts and uncles.
“What I really wanted to do was cook,” Provost said. “It was always on my mind.”
He enrolled in the Miami campus of Johnson & Wales, where he studied food service management and received an associate’s degree in culinary arts. His experience to date has been mostly in hotels.
Provost learned from a close friend of the opportunity to take over an established butcher shop in New Jersey and said he felt it would be a “smart move on my part.”
While it might still be hard to believe that he is gone, Provost said Larry remains just a phone call away and has been nothing but helpful through the transition.
“Everyone seemed to love [Larry]," he said.
With a warm smile and strong family values, the Caldwells' new butcher should prove easy to love.