Will the Western Beef grocery empire give way to luxury condos?


Family beef is sizzling over the future of the iconic New York grocery store chain Western Beef.

The affordable supermarket brand with a sentient cactus mascot (his name is Charlie) and meat as cheap as its looks could soon become tartare (e.g., luxury condos).

In 2020, the founder of Wester Beef, Peter Castellanas Sr., died from COVID-19. During his life, he was charged and found guilty of many mob-related crimes, among them selling adulterated meat, defrauding the government in a stolen food stamps scheme, committing bankruptcy fraud, lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission and extortion (for having meat suppliers threatened with bone breakage over a debt), according to Curbed.

Now, his grandson, Peter III, who was until recently Western Beef’s CEO, is attempting to take the company in a new direction.

He hopes to cash in on skyrocketing land prices in the boroughs by razing his family’s stores and developing luxury residential buildings in their place. He shuttered seven Western Beef stores to build projects like the Astor in Long Island City, where rent is roughly $5,000 per month for a two-bedroom unit. In The Bronx, he teamed up with a developer to create a nine-story, 159-mixed-unit development.

“I had a business plan, all the numbers worked out,” he told Curbed. “I had some of the best economical minds available to me.”

But his father and Western Beef board chairman Peter Jr. — who grew up in the family business, building it into a $300 million chain with 20 stores and 2 million square feet of real estate in the New York area — has a bone to pick with his son.

“I just want to get our business back,” Peter Jr. told the magazine. “This is my baby. This is what I live for.”

He has since relieved his son of his position and halted the redevelopment projects.

“[They] offered us big, big money for the real estate,” Peter Jr. said of a Western Beef near the Marcy Projects. “They wanted to put huge condominiums over there, like they’re doing in the whole area.”

He’s not having it.

But Peter the younger isn’t done “steaking” out his territory. He’s since launched a real estate firm, dubbed Cactus Asset Management, that manages more than 25 mixed-use developments and Western Beef properties. He plans to target Western Beef stores and other businesses in areas like Carroll Gardens and The Bronx for redevelopment going forward.

What’s next? We’re hoping for Western Beef-branded residences.

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