Thwaites Market -
VisitingNewEngland small business partnership
Thwaites Market Specializes in English Pork Pies and Family
Togetherness in Methuen, Mass.
This north of Boston mom and pop business wonderfully
warms the nostalgic soul and palate
Thwaites Market in Methuen.
Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz.
created on 6/18/2019.
England travel article with your friends...
Walking into Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass. reveals that sometimes
history never gets old.
The old-fashioned market dates back nearly 100 years and has gained a
faithful following, most notably for its delicious handmade English
pork pies. Few businesses make English pork pies anymore in New England
and even fewer do it as well as Thwaites. The crust, seasonings, juices
and the ground pork made fresh daily in these traditional pastries have
a taste that is nothing
short of heavenly. Food trends come and go, but the Thwaites English
pork pie has withstood the test of time, proving that simple
hearty foods shall forever remain.
English pork pie. Photo credit: Thwaites Market Facebook fan
Hannah Thwaites, who was born in England, first opened her small
business in a boarding house in North Andover, Mass. She started
creating the English pork pies there and later moved the business to a
grocery store at the current Thwaites Market location. Just
about all the Thwaites children and grandchildren
worked at the store at one point or another during the first 40 years.
Hanna's son, Thomas, became the sole proprietor
in the 1950s and made delivery orders until the Vietnam War when
grandson (and current Thwaites owner) Ken Greenwood, Jr., got called
into service. When returning from Army duty in the Vietnam War, Ken got
right back to work and Thwaites expanded, purchasing two brand new pie
presses from England to keep up with the expanding English pork pie business.
Back then, Thwaites Market could make about 70 or 80 pies a week.
And what about today?
"I am not going to tell you how many pies we make in a day -- that's a
secret -- but it's only 9:30 a.m. and we have already made 250," said
Abbey Hoffman, general manager of Thwaites Market and daughter of Ken
To this very day, however, the pies are still made by hand. The folks
at Thwaites make the dough, use heat to form the shell, put the filling
into the pies and use a crimper to accent the tops before being baked
in the oven.
"We've had people from England say the pies are better here," said
Abbey. "We might have bad backs, carpal tunnel, other types of pain but
that's part of the hard work that goes into what we do here."
While the pie production and other food offerings at Thwaites Market
have increased since its
inception, the step-back-in-time surroundings and the
roll-up-the-sleeves work ethic evoke a scene that still looks like
out of the early 20th century. It's like a classic black and white movie scene that makes a viewer feel good about nostalgic times, only
it's real and in full
Located near the main drag of Broadway, Thwaites
no doubt has been the best and longest-running local off-Broadway
production for generations in
historic, close-knit Methuen. The catalyst to its success: Almost all family members (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and cousins) have put their hard work in at Thwaites.
Inside Thwaites Market. Photo
credit: Thwaites Market Facebook fan page.
The squeaky old wooden floors lend an imperfectly perfect foundation to
browse the isles where there's not an item out of place on the shelves.
One of those shelves remains from the old days, built by Thomas and his
Charles when the store first opened...
Original shelving at Thwaites Market. Photo
credit: Thwaites Market Facebook fan page.
Greenwood (son of Thomas and mother of Ken, Jr.) is almost 90-years-old
and stands proudly as one of the oldest
sausage makers in New England. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays,
Barbara preps the sausages (one of Thwaites longtime specialties) with the dexterity
of someone half her age at her own space behind the glass on the left
side of the store.
Barbara Greenwood makes the sausages at Thwaites.
Children often walk or run into the store, sit on a bench and
watch Barbara make the sausages. Kids of all
ages, in fact, are impressed by Barbara's sausage-making
Barbara constantly has fan support.
Barbara, a truly lovely person, is
all about family, faith and community. A lifelong Methuen resident,
Barbara resides about two minutes up the road from Thwaites. A 1947
graduate of Searles High School (now the location of Methuen Town Hall)
where she starred as a forward on the basketball team, Barbara also
served as the organist and choir director at the local Methodist
church for 65 years.
Before her beloved husband Kenneth Greenwood, Sr. passed away in 1995,
Barbara played "I'll Love You Until The Stars Shine
No More" as a loving dedication.
"It was the last thing I played before he died," said Barbara.
Although Barbara has sight in only one eye, her vision remains
sharp and focused on the most important things in life.
"Our father always taught us to work together as a family," said
Barbara. "I will do anything for them. Isn't that what it's all about?
We have had had so many family members work in the store. Four children
and 15 grandchildren. I am like the little old lady in the shoe with so
many children I don't know what to do! There couldn't be any place
nicer than here. It's a very welcoming place."
When first entering Thwaites Market.
At the cramped but efficiently-run back production room, the meat
and pretty much every inch of the
store, Ken, 69,
humbly services customers the old-fashioned way with
and a healthy dose of conversation.
Ken meets and greets a customer.
Since owning the store after succeeding his father in the business, Ken
has worked tirelessly for more
than three decades -- and grateful that he made it out of Vietnam to
start a renewed new life and career. He also does not miss the days of
having to process more than 3,000 lbs. of bacon a week at the central
meat plant while stationed at Ft. Benning, Ga. During his great run at
Ken has pretty much worked 12 hour days from
6 a.m. until 6 p.m., taken only four vacations and made more than a
Ken forms a pie in the back production room at Thwaites Market.
Still, he and the long-time love of his life and wife of 36 years, Cindy, manage to have
fun working at the
Ken and Cindy share a lighter moment. Photo
credit: Thwaites Market Facebook fan page.
Daughter Abbey, 34, is much like her dad, mom and Grandma Barbara
showing a strong work ethic at Thwaites. She loves hand-making pies the
old fashioned way with equipment and tins from England. Daughters Mia
and Pippa, both newcomers to the world, come downstairs to see family
and all that
delicious food being made. The girls, Abbey and husband Greg live
the same place Barbara was born and raised and Ken lived for about 20
Abbey's daughter, Pippa, has found the culinary pot of gold in the
form of English-style pies. Photo credit: Thwaites Facebook fan page.
"It's a short commute and somehow always manage to be late for work," said Abbey. "I don't get to drive around and
listen to music."
Abbey makes mac and cheese pies.
Abbey said she is one of three people in the past 100 years of business
who knows the Thwaites English pork pie recipe. Although Abbey has a strong love for and
commitment to creating pies the traditional way, she also has a savvy
21st-century business acumen.
Graduating U/Mass Lowell in 2008 with a degree in marketing and
went to work for Putnam Investments in finance but decided it
the best investment for her.
"You shouldn't go into work having a panic attack every day," said
Abbey. She asked her dad about returning to work at Thwaites and he
didn't hesitate to say "Yes."
Ken and Abbey make mashed potatoes. Photo
credit: Thwaites Market Facebook fan page.
Abbey has applied her business and marketing skills along with that
lifelong connection to Thwaites to help keep the market relevant in the
21st century. Soon, Thwaites will have a food truck selling those
delicious pies at events and ceremonies in the area. She has also amped
up the social media outreach with a Thwaites presence on Facebook,
Twitter and Instagram. The Phantom Gourmet and Wicked Bites TV and
Radio have featured Thwaites in wonderful segments.
Anna Coco, a Methuen native, works the front end of the store at
"I'm not big on change," said Ken. "Other than a computer, that's about
it. Abbey knows her stuff with social media and then there's the food
truck idea, so all that really helps a lot."
Pies, Sausages, Steaks And More
English-style pies from Thwaites market.
While the old-fashioned vibe of the store makes one feel good
all over, the foods target one part of the body: the taste buds.
Thwaites has put more English on its pie production as compared to the
past with up to 45
different offerings. Here's a sampling of the options:
Broccoli and Cheese
Cheese and Onion
Chicken (Chicken bits with
Chicken and Broccoli
Ready to be purchased pies.
Frank and Beans
Hamburg and Onion
Hot Italian (Spicy Italian
Italian (Italian sausage meat)
Lamb (Ground up lamb mixed with
Omelette Pie (Egg with
broccoli, ham and cheese)
The mac and cheese pie with thick cheesy sauce and Ritz crackers has
become a big-time favorite and with good reason: it's absolutely
delicious -- like a bowl of mac and cheese put into pie form. Like all
the other pies, don't let the small-looking pastry-sized shell size
fool you. Just one of these is
enough to satiate a hearty appetite.
Mac and cheese pie from Thwaites Market.
The Tomato Job Pie is basically a Caprese salad (fresh mozzarella,
chopped tomato, ground basil, olive oil and salt and pepper) put into a
pastry shell. Ken couldn't pronounce Caprese so they just called it
Tomato Job, according to Abbey.
Michelle Rothwell prepares the Tomato Job pies.
Thwaites also makes larger family-style pies (including chicken,
Shepherd's, salmon and steak and kidney), as well as homemade items
like potato salad, cole slaw, macaroni and pasta salads, chop suey,
English and French stuffings (seasonal), meatloaf, cranberry walnut
chicken salad, mashed potatoes, pigs in a blanket and rice pudding.
Homemade cranberry walnut chicken salad.
They also cure their own corned beef. Around St. Patrick's Day in
March, Thwaites makes about 4,000 lbs. of this Irish favorite.
And thanks to the prep work of Barbara, there are many different
homemade sausage options!
Sausages and ground beef. Photo credit: Thwaites
Market Facebook fan page.
Another popular item are the Scotch eggs -- a hard-boiled egg wrapped
in pork sausage meat, rolled in breadcrumbs and baked in the oven.
Scotch eggs. Photo credit:
Thwaites Market Facebook fan page.
Over at the counter area at the back of the store, customers can find
high quality tenderloin steak, lamb chops, extra lean and ground chuck
hamburg and marinated steak tips and chicken. The set-up hearkens back
to simpler times where an employee from behind the counter
services the customer in almost a butcher shop type setting.
Meat market at Thwaites.
Thwaites also offers an excellent selection of grocery basics and even
some fabulous produce...
Tomatoes near the counter at Thwaites Market.
"We have a little bit of everything but a lot of things you won't find
anywhere else," said Ken.
Ups and Downs But Mostly Ups
Parking instructions at Thwaites.
Like any family, the folks at Thwaites have been graced with
the joys, suffered through the losses and stayed together out of love,
togetherness and devotion.
"We've had our ups and downs but we get through," said Ken with a
gentle, reflective look in his eyes. "You know, if I won the Megabucks
I could do
more for the store and the people that work here."
Metaphorically speaking, Ken and family already won the Megabucks years ago. They
other, customers from the neighborhood and beyond, and a successful mom
and pop family business. Ken was recently inducted into the
Searles/Tenney/Methuen High School Athletic and Distinguished Hall of
Fame (he was a 1967 graduate). Daughter Abbey has "come back home" from corporate
America to live and work in the Thwaites building and help carry on the
grand business tradition. The older generation still enjoys working at Thwaites and that has a positive effect on younger generations employed there.
"Dad's always said. 'I'll stop doing it when it stops being fun - I'm still having fun!'" said Abbey.
Wise words at Thwaites Market.
ConclusionThere will always be bad news in the world and top headline reminders
can be seen juxtaposed with the innocent age of Thwaites Market...
Bad news in the top headline, good news beyond at Thwaites.
The living presence of the American Dream, however, at Thwaites Market
-- steeped in a foundation of
family, faith, hard work and, of course, those delicious English pork pies -- has
always overcome the American storms. And the smiling faces standing on
those squeaky wooden floors represent that strong foundation...
The staff at Thwaites Market.
"I always loved working here -- our family, the
English heritage and
culture," said Abbey. "All other kids played store growing up. We
actually did it. Now it is my career and I hope to do this forever. I
love it here."
Thwaites Market is located at 36
Railroad St. in Methuen, MA. Tel. (978) 683-2429. Log
onto the Thwaites
Market Web Site and on Instagram,
more information. Also be sure
to see all the glowing reviews on Thwaites Market at Yelp.
It is one of the few places to
average five stars!
Ready for your next visit to an old-fashioned neighborhood market? Oliva's
in Milford, Mass., will take you back to another time and place.
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