Family-owned market gets approval for modest expansion

Family-owned market gets approval for modest expansion
Bader “Bud” Bajalia and his wife, Jeanette

Two seemingly parallel applications for development in the predominantly residential historic district of Riverside and Avondale are, in reality, divergent.

While Riverside Avondale Preservation (RAP) strongly opposes the planned unit development for The Roost, a 150-seat, late-night bar and restaurant on Oak Street, it supported a rezoning request in order to bring the Pinegrove Market and Deli into conformance with Zoning Code.

The current zoning, RLD-60, is residential on Pinegrove Avenue, but the popular meat market and deli has been in continuous operation prior to the 1969 Zoning Code and the 2008 Riverside Avondale Overlay.

The application did initially meet some resistance from RAP and a few nearby property owners, but once the family made assurances the establishment would not grow in size, scale and intensity beyond a 60-seat restaurant, RAP put its support behind the ordinance.

Nader Bajalia, second oldest son of the family who owns the business, said the process took about 18 months, negotiating all the usual sticking points: parking, hours, noise and traffic.

With City Council approval on March 8, 2016, the Pinegrove Market and Deli can now operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with patio seating up to 20, and on-premise sales and service of beer and wine. The actual operating hours are currently less than permitted, opening at 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. The deli serves breakfast on Saturday only, opening at 8 a.m. and closing at 7 p.m. It is not open on Sunday.

Roots in the community

For over six decades, families in Riverside and Avondale, and from nearby Ortega and other neighborhoods, dined – at home – on quality meats and steaks hand-cut by butchers at the Pinegrove Market.

Nader’s father, Bader “Bud” Bajalia, 71, bought the Pinegrove Meat Market in 1968. For the next 30-plus years, Bud cut and sold some of the finest cuts of beef, lamb and pork to residents.

As the years passed, more households became two-income families, the trend toward dining out or taking out increased, and the Pinegrove Market added “deli” to its name and service.

“In the old days, the ladies came here on the weekends and bought steaks to eat – they enjoyed cooking at home,” said Bud Bajalia. “Back then the wives stayed at home. Now nobody does that. Everyone is working now, so that’s what changed the business. The treat now is when they cook out at home.”

Bud Bajalia credits his four sons and daughter with the idea of a deli, which began around 2000.

“The boys started making salads because people were asking for it so we continued to increase until it was a full-blown deli,” he said. “People like to come in the evening and get a bite to eat. We were closing too early in the afternoon, at 3 o’clock, so I suggested we stay open a little later and see how it works.”

The response was overwhelming, said Bud Bajalia, which led to the family’s application for re-zoning to allow Pinegrove to operate as a restaurant.

Second generation carries on

The elder Bajalia, who is now retired, still comes in with his wife, Jeanette, to “help the boys out.” Three of his sons work at Pinegrove, while his oldest son and a daughter manage the Pinegrove Deli & Grill in the Times-Union building.

“I never thought I would be flipping hamburgers in my meat market,” said Bud Bajalia. “I’m a meat man, and I was proud of my profession. I did very well with it, and we’ll still in business because it’s the backbone of our deli. It gives people the idea you can get a good hamburger and a good steak; most places don’t have that.”

Jeanette still seasons the meat and other dishes, such as tabbouleh and Greek pasta, but the family knows she needs to pass her recipes along. “The boys have always depended on us to do these things,” said Bajalia. “They know how to run the business, cut the meat and sell it, but to do what she does, they can’t do it all.”

The Bajalias plan to video Jeanette while she explains how she prepares each dish, keeping her family cooking secrets for posterity and for the delight of future customers.

Bud and Jeanette Bajalia will celebrate their 50th anniversary April 24. They were married on Easter in 1966, after a whirlwind courtship. “We met on Christmas Eve and were engaged on New Year’s Eve,” said Jeannette. Both she and her husband are from Jerusalem. Bud came to the United States as a young boy, then to Jacksonville in 1954, but Jeanette didn’t immigrate to America until the 1960s.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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