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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, Methuen, Mass.
Thwaites Market in Methuen.

Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 6/18/2019.

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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 from Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass.
English pork pie. Photo credit: Thwaites Market Facebook fan page.

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 and Cindy.

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 something 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 living color. 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.

Thwaite-Inside-Methuen
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 brother Charles when the store first opened...

Original shelf from nearly 100 years ago at Thwaites Market in Methueb, Mass.
Original shelving at Thwaites Market.
Photo credit: Thwaites Market Facebook fan page.

Grandmother Barbara 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, one of the oldest sausage makers in New England, makes the sausages at Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass.
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 skills...

Impressed customer takes picture of Barbara Greenwood making sausages at Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass.
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."

Welcome to Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass.
When first entering Thwaites Market.

At the cramped but efficiently-run back production room, the meat counter area, and pretty much every inch of the store, Ken, 69, humbly services customers the old-fashioned way with honor, duty and a healthy dose of conversation.

Ken Greenwood helps a customer at his store, Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass.
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 Thwaites Market, 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 millions pies.

Ken Greenwood, owner of Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass., forms a pie.
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 store.

Husband and wife Ken and Cindy Greenwood take a little break at their store, Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass.
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 upstairs in the same place Barbara was born and raised and Ken lived for about 20 years.

Abbey Hoffman's daughter, Pip, poses net to the English style pies at Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass.
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 Hoffman makes mac and cheese pies at Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass.
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 business, Abbey went to work for Putnam Investments in finance but decided it ultimately wasn't 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 Greenwood and daughter Abbey Hoffman makes mashed potatoes at Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass.
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.

At the front end of the store in Thwaites Market in Methuen, MA.
Anna Coco, a Methuen native, works the front end of the store at Thwaites.

"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 in Methuen, Mass.
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:

Apple Pork
Barbecue Chicken
Beef Teriyaki
Broccoli and Cheese
Bratwurst
Cheese and Onion
Chicken (Chicken bits with homemade )
Chicken and Broccoli
Chicken Teriyaki
Chili
Chinese Sausage

English pies ready to be served at Thwaites Market in Methuen, MA.
Ready to be purchased pies.

Frank and Beans
Greek Sausage
Hamburg and Onion 
Hot Italian (Spicy Italian sausage meat)  
Italian (Italian sausage meat)
Kielbasa
Lamb (Ground up lamb mixed with onions) 
Omelette Pie (Egg with broccoli, ham and cheese)   
Pepper Steak
Pork
Pork Sausage
Spinach

Spinach pie from Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass.
Spinach pie.

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 in Methuen, Mass.
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 makes a Tomato Job Pie (a Caprese salad put into a pie) at Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass.
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.

Cranberry walnut chicken salad from Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass.
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 from Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass.
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 from Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass. Made with hard-boiled eggs 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 section at Thwaites Marketplace in Methuen, Mass.
Meat market at Thwaites.

Thwaites also offers an excellent selection of grocery basics and even some fabulous produce...

Tomatoes sold at Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass.
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


Pie sign at Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass.
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 have each 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.

It's pie o'clock somewhere sign at Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass.
Wise words at Thwaites Market.

Conclusion

There will always be bad news in the world and top headline reminders can be seen juxtaposed with the innocent age of Thwaites Market...

Newpapers at Thwaites Market in Methuen, Mass.
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 in Methuen, Mass.
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, Twitter and Facebook for 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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Thwaites Marketplace in Methuen, Mass., is a family-run business nearly 100-years-old and one of the last places in New England to sell English pork pies.



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