The fire department wants 103 pounds of ham. The phone rings with an order for 500 pounds of beef. The line to the counter runs 20 deep. Just another day in the life of Holsinger's Meat Market.
On a slow day in June, in a little butcher shop in blink-and-you'll-miss-it Maugansville, Md., the lunchtime queue is 20 deep. One boy fishes a stick of beef jerky out of a jar and wields it like Cal Ripken, while a first-time visitor tears into his jerky. "That's good," he says. He chews some more. "I'll be back." The fire department wants 103 pounds of ham. "That phone could ring, and it could be for 1,000 pounds of beef," says Holsinger's Meat Market owner Bob Holsinger. "And it sends me into orbit."
Holsinger's is the kind of place where customers become regulars because their parents were. A place whose local roots go back 126 years and run as deep as the marbling through one of Bob Holsinger's thick cuts of sirloin. Holsinger's great-grandfather ran a slaughterhouse for local farmers, and his grandfather operated a meat stall in neighboring Hagerstown. His father converted a garage behind the family house into a butcher shop; Holsinger opened the present store in 1964, later capping the roof with a life-size fiberglass steer. Today his wife, Regine, and daughter, Lisa Eckel, work there full-time. His two sons fill in.
Holsinger's products aren't run-of-the-mill meat-counter fare. Consider the hot dogs. Thirteen years ago, dissatisfied with the brummagem franks his supplier sold him, Holsinger started making his own. With no internal-organ meat, his dogs don't come with a mean bite. "One lady says this is the only hot dog she can't taste twice," says Regine.
GOING STAG: Located minutes from the Pennsylvania and West Virginia borders, Bob Holsinger's butcher shop is a deer hunter's mecca.
Located just south of the Mason-Dixon line, Holsinger's draws 95% of its business from a 20-mile radius. At least until September rolls around. That's when hunters from Maine to the Carolinas make the pilgrimage to the store to have their kill turned into ham, sausage, and bologna. Last year, on the first day of Maryland's firearm season, Holsinger's processed 200 deer. And locals who hunt out west trek back to the shop with their elk, moose, caribou -- sometimes even bear -- in tow.
Holsinger once mulled opening a second store in a bigger town. Now, at 68, he just wants to grow his $500,000-a-year business to a point at which he can pass it on. A grandson would like to keep the shop in Maugansville. Says employee Kathy Harbaugh: "In D.C. or Baltimore, I'm not sure if they'd know what to make of us."