By Nancy Brumback
Marlborough – Before the sun comes up, Marcelo Silva is scouting produce markets in Boston and Everett, the Boston Fish Pier and meat markets, loading the best products he can find on his refrigerated truck.
Those products will be available to customers at Silva's Market in a few hours, when the store on Route 20 in Marlborough opens its doors.
“The most crucial thing we do to make sure we have the freshest beef, pork and poultry is eliminate the layers between the packing house and our customers,” Silva said. “If poultry is packaged and delivered to a supermarket, it can be as much as seven to 10 days from the packing house when the customer buys it. I pick up the poultry. Ours is one day from the packing house.”
By cutting out the middlemen, Silva offers premium products at prices below many supermarkets.
“I bring in hormone-free poultry and sell it for 30 percent less than the others’ conventional chicken. My certified Black Angus beef is often 40 to 50 percent less.”
Silva's Market opened in 2003 in a smaller store in the same shopping center. At the end of 2009, the store moved into a corner spot at the intersection of Route 20 and Wilson Road. This location, about the size of a large 7-Eleven, let Silva add seafood, a deli department featuring Boar's Head products, and more produce.
Silva's father owned a grocery store in Brazil for 55 years and raised his own cattle, so the son learned the business early. Marcelo Silva came to the United States when he was 18, determined to “continue doing the things we did well in Brazil.”
He uses his family's recipes for fresh sausages – pork, beef and pork, and chicken – made in the store, packed into natural casings that are yards long and proudly displayed.
“For our pork sausages we use a fresh ham, debone it ourselves and grind it, so there's no excess fat.”
There are also family recipes for marinades. Customers can choose from four or five varieties of marinated chicken breasts and wings, and delicious marinated steak tips.
Slices of fresh beef liver glisten in the case, and Silva noted he looks specifically for liver from hormone-free cattle, since liver can retain more of the hormones fed to animals.
The store sells a lot of 90 percent lean ground beef, but there are no large containers of it on display. Silva's grinds its beef to the customer's order. Steaks are sliced off a whole loin to order by a butcher who has been cutting meat for decades.
Walking over to the produce section, which features a variety of fruits and vegetables used in Brazilian cooking as well as more conventional products, Silva noted that he had no strawberries that day.
“I’ve been going to the wholesale markets for so long now I’ve made a lot of friends. They help me out because they know I’m a small business owner working very hard. This morning, my supplier told me, ‘My strawberries are not good enough for you today.'”
Silva's produce prices are as good as his meat prices, and eggs are always a bargain, recently $1.29 a dozen for extra large.
The store also bakes bread four times a day, from frozen dough made at a nearby bakery from Silva's own recipes.
The majority of the grocery items in the store are aimed at Brazilian customers, with brands and products not found in most supermarkets. But Silva is happy to explain their use and urged a non-Brazilian customer to pick up some churrasco seasoning for the next barbecue.
When the store first opened, most of the customers were Brazilian, he said, but now Brazilians are about 40 percent of his customer base as word has gotten out on the quality and value available in meats and produce.
Silva's Market is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day except Sunday, when it closes at 5 p.m. It's located at 530 Boston Post Road East. For more information or to place a special order, call 508-485-5977. Silva is happy to satisfy customers who want something specific.
“If you want something special from the wholesale markets,” he said, “tell me the day before, and I’ll get it for you.”