Putting Meat on Omahans’ Bones
Jul 18, 2019 11:32AM
By Kara Schweiss
Food, especially meat, is big business in this state. Nebraska has been called “the beef state” (even adopting that slogan for 1950s and 1960s license plates) for good reason; it consistently ranks as one of the top cattle-producing states in the country, according to the Nebraska Beef Council. Nebraska Department of Economic Development statistics show food processing to be the state’s largest industry as measured by total payroll dollars. Food is big business locally, too. Omaha was once the world’s largest livestock market and meatpacking center, and although its economy no longer depends on agriculture, it’s still home to dozens of food manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors, and several family-owned, longstanding, meat-based businesses known locally, regionally, and beyond.
The first Stoysich House of Sausage shop opened in 1961 at 24th and Bancroft streets, where it continues to operate today. It also operates a second facility 10 miles west near 130th and Arbor streets. Ken Stoysich is the third of four generations of Stoysich men [“my grandfather, my father, myself, and my son”] involved in the business. He said the company makes more than 140 varieties of sausage and processed meats using a mixture of locally raised beef and pork combined with imported spices. Over time, the recipes have grown to represent a wide variety of nations—Poland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, England, Czechoslovakia, Mexico, Greece, Denmark, Sweden and Ireland—as well as some American-born formulas.
Stoysich said he takes great pride in preserving an old-fashioned style of doing business through the company’s traditional, small meat-market model. It’s led to a local reputation for quality. Stoysich has found through his travels that Stoysich House of Sausage is nationally and internationally known.
“We offer that personalized service; we talk to the customer and find out what they’re looking for. The foodies who come in—people who really enjoy food and like to try different recipes— we try to cater to them and have everything on hand that they would need,” he says.
The Stoysich team is also “happy to help” amateurs who need guidance selecting, preparing, and/or serving any of their meat products that span 10 categories (one being sausage). Stoysich chuckled as he recalled an 83-year-old woman who asked for advice on cooking a turkey for the very first time. New customers appreciate the extra attention and often seem “surprised by the questions and effort to get the details right,” something he said they won’t find in a large supermarket.
“It’s one of the best feelings knowing people are taking home a product I made and feeding it to their families, and that everyone’s enjoying it,” he said. “Quality is always remembered.”
Omaha Steaks is an international company today, but it’s still headquartered in its namesake city where it was started in 1917 by father and son J.J. and B.A. Simon. Founded as “Table Supply Meat Co.,” a name that came from the modification of an existing sign at the business’ first quarters, the butcher shop thrived and grew over ensuing decades. Lester Simon became the third generation to join the business and was credited with accelerating its growth through cross-country foodservice partnerships that put Omaha beef on the menus of railroad dining cars and troop transport trains. Omaha became synonymous with high-quality beef by the time the Simons introduced mail order in 1953, and in 1966 the company was renamed Omaha Steaks International.
The first retail store opened in the state in 1976. Today, more than 70 retail outlets operate throughout the United States. Customers all over the world can order Omaha Steaks products through mail order and various electronic media, including their website and smartphone apps. In addition to steaks, customers can choose from a wide selection of meat, seafood, meals, sides, desserts, and wine. The company also created a fundraising vehicle called Steaks for Good—which allows customers to donate 10 percent of their purchase price to a charitable cause of choice—and a rewards program for repeat customers.
Although the century-old company is now a $450-million-dollar business employing more than 2,000 year-round employees and a large number of holiday-season temps, Omaha Steaks remains a privately held business run by the Simon family. Lester Simon’s sons Stephen, Fred, and Alan eventually followed him into leadership roles at the company. Alan is currently the chairman of the board. His son Bruce is president & CEO, and Fred’s son Todd is senior vice president. Todd says the company is still managed as a family business, with the kind of attention to detail and personal pride that helped it flourish and contributed to its expansion over a century.
“Being a family business that’s rooted in the Midwest, it’s one of our biggest advantages. Omaha is part of our heritage,” he said, adding that the company will remain headquartered in the community that supported its success and growth.
“From here, we can deliver amazing experiences to customers all across the country,” he said. “That’s why we’ve been here for 100 years. That’s why we’ll stay here.”
click here to subscribe.