What I Do: Joe Weinmann at Kenrick's Meats & Catering
The office at Kenrick’s Meats & Catering hums all day. Employees come and go, cracking jokes and trading jibes with the easy familiarity of people who’ve known each other for decades and, in some cases, their entire lives. In the center of it all sits the 70-year-old patriarch of this operation, Joe Weinmann (aka Joe the Butcher), giving as good as he gets.
Founder Herb Kenrick launched his eponymous mobile butcher truck in 1945. Nearly 75 years later, your Favorite Butcher Shop sells far more than premium cuts of beef and pork. Kenrick’s has its own lines of proprietary spice rubs and barbecue sauces, fresh produce, a lunch counter, prepared grab-and-go meals and a catering business offering everything from barbecue to whole-hog roasts and shrimp boils.
Kenrick’s was a family business when Weinmann bought it in 1975 and, if he has anything to say about it, it will be a family business long after he retires – not that he plans to do that anytime soon.
“I actually got started in 1968. I worked for a market called Cook’s Market. I was a bagboy when I was 16 years old. …. Mr. Cook asked me, ‘Joey, what are you going to do when you get out of high school?’ And my response was, ‘I’d like to be an apprentice butcher,’ and he goes, ‘OK ... when you get out of high school, you look me up.’ I went into the Army Reserves for six months, and [then] he kept his promise – he made me apprentice butcher.”
“Pete Vitale, who owned Kenrick’s at the time, told me he wanted to retire and try something else, and I told him I’d like to buy it. Basically, I put everything up. … I bought my first business for $15,000. … I was 25 years old. You’ll get a kick out of this – I bought it without telling my wife! I married my prom date, and she’s a wonderful lady, and she handled it extremely well.”
“I had the opportunity to meet [Herb Kenrick] before he passed away, he and his wife, and he was proud that we kept the name on it. It’s a little easier to say ‘Kenrick’ than it is to say ‘Weinmann,’ you know?”
“A couple who shop in here – I felt like the [holiday] M&M commercial – they go, ‘There is a Joe the Butcher!’ and you talk about feeling – I wish my father was still alive to see. They wanted an autograph from me!”
“In 1975, we had three kinds of sausages: Italian sausage, country sausage and bratwurst. Now we make varieties of everything – we probably do 5,000 pounds a week of our sausages.”
“For a radio station, guess what we made? Gummy bratwursts – gummy bears! … They were absolutely terrible. … We don’t have to tell you where they hit. They hit the trashcans. And if something don’t meet our criteria, we work on it. Basically, we just keep going at it.”
“Take care of the customer, and they’ll keep coming back. We want to hear the good or the bad. Good, bad or ugly because it means a lot. You want to correct. If someone ain’t happy with a product, you want to know and you want to correct it immediately.”
“It’s a family business. You know it’s going to stay that way. When I’m gone, these guys know it’s going to go forward. I had two guys who wanted to buy me out, and I told them, ‘What about my employees?’ and they said, ‘What about your employees?’ And I said, ‘Well, Joe didn’t build this by himself.’ People working here put long hours in. It’s a team. You treat people good. That’s why we have longevity here. Family comes first.”
Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine.
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