For almost two years, the “lady butchers” behind Saucisson have been making a name for themselves by crafting some of the city’s best cured meats and sausages. During that time, partners Melissa Khoury and Penny Barend have become familiar sights at fleas, farmers’ markets, and frequent food-filled pop-up events around town. In addition to selling directly to enthusiastic retail customers, Saucisson offers its gourmet products to chefs and restaurants.
But working out of rented kitchens – first at the Cleveland Culinary Launch & Kitchen, and presently at the Katz Club Diner catering facilities – has put a ceiling on just how much product the fast-growing food startup can produce and sell.
What the ladies really needed was to find a permanent home. And find one they did.
If there’s a more fitting place to build a new nest, the girls haven’t found it. Work already has begun on Saucisson’s new production facility and retail storefront at 5324 Fleet Avenue. Slavic Village residents might recall another butcher who called that address home for some 40 years: Jaworski Meats, which just celebrated its 80th birthday at its current home in Middleburg Heights.
“There were probably eight or 10 butcher shops in that neighborhood alone,” Khoury says of the historic district. “We want to bring back the legit, old school butcher shop with deli cases filled with cuts of meat, freezers with frozen soups, and even sandwiches of the day down the road a little.”
The move into what will be a State of Ohio-inspected facility for meat will open the door to more wholesale restaurant business, which under the current system is capped at 25 percent of total sales. But mostly, the increased space (2,800 square feet) will permit Saucisson to prepare larger batches of its already popular products like locally sourced bacon, tasso ham, chorizo, jerky, fresh sausages and nitrate-free cold cuts like roast beef, pastrami, corned beef and garlic bologna so that they are always available.
Plans call for getting the production portion of the business up and running this winter, with the retail operation following next spring.
“We are super pumped we found a home – and in a neighborhood that needs businesses coming in,” says Khoury. “Our hope is to be a good, visible, awesome business in the neighborhood. We want a place we can call home and not just a space where we show up, sell our meats and go home.”
Nobody is more excited about the deal than Anthony Trzaska, who for years has been working to revive and support Slavic Village’s 95-year-old Slovenian National Home, or “Nash.” The Fleet native recently launched a development business to help push the entire neighborhood in the right direction. It’s called Sonny Day, named after his grandfather, Sonny, who founded the local funeral home six decades ago. One of the first pieces of commercial property Trzaska acquired was the “Jaworski Building,” which actually began life in the early 1900s as a furniture store.
“I grew up across the street,” he says. “Old Mr. Jaworski would slide me Smokies through the fence. That property was the one that I that wanted more than most, not just for sentimental reasons, but also for the role it can play in the new Fleet Avenue. Everything I'm doing is kind of a tip of the cap to how things used to be. For years, my motto has been ‘the new wave of the old world.’”
Trzaska says that he purchased the property in hopes of attracting a tenant who would enrich the fabric of this promising neighborhood. He admits that landing Saucisson was almost too good to be true.
“You can't write a better story than this,” he notes. “For years I have wanted to get a butcher back into that space to try and jumpstart some organic growth of this commercial district that is so ripe for it. I have to continue to sell the future of this street and then do everything that it takes to make sure we get there.”
Things are beginning to fall into place for this historic blue-collar market district. Already underway, a $9-million “Fleetscape project” will create Cleveland’s first complete and green street, with dedicated lanes giving bike commuters a breezy 10-minute ride to the heart of downtown.
“The infrastructure is here and it has always been here,” says Trzaska. “It’s just a matter of giving it a facelift."