KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When Julius Seelig founded Farmingdale Meat Market in 1946, he likely only dreamed that the Long Island, New York-based butcher shop would one day be led by his son, Kent, who will eventually pass the torch to his son and continues to work alongside him to carry on the family business. The humble butcher shop evolved through the years and the company, which sprouted Main Street Wholesale Meats in 1990, has thrived in an ultra-competitive foodservice region.
Seventy years later, the processor has earned an enviable reputation as a supplier of premium, dry-aged Prime beef, pork, lamb and poultry to some of the best-known restaurants serving some of the most demanding and affluent diners in the Northeast. The locally famous Farmingdale Meat Market, in Long Island, New York, has maintained a coveted retail location on Main Street in the village of the same name and has become famous in the area for its quality-rich butcher shop meats. This past December, the company launched a web-based offshoot of its business, The Steak Source (www.thesteaksource.com), where only its most premium products are available for delivery throughout the US.
Three generations strong
The 6,000-sq.-ft. processing plant and retail storefront, about 30 miles from New York City is landlocked, but the third-generation company isn’t allowing that to limit its growth or overshadow its institutional standing on the populous island where wineries, mansions and world-class restaurants dot the dynamic landscape.
“At one time we were the largest retail butcher shop on Long Island,” says Kent, who took over the company from his father in 1979 after working together for about 20 years. Today, that retail shop only comprises about 600 sq. ft., with the rest of the space used to cut meat for the wholesale business. “That is the way I learned the business; from my dad,” Kent says.
Growing up, Kent’s son, Lee, worked at the family business as a delivery driver until he embarked on a career as a music promoter after graduating from college. In his 30s, Lee shifted career gears and joined the family business in 2008. Now holding the title of president, Lee still works with his father and together the duo have seen annual sales grow about 20 percent in Lee’s first three years to approximately $15 million by 2011 and to more than $30 million today.
Supplying customers that include New York’s iconic Peter Luger Steak House and the Garden City Hotel requires unwavering quality and relationships based on trust and quality assurance. The Bohlsen Restaurant Group is another one of the coveted, more prominently known foodservice customers the Seeligs work with in the Long Island market.
The processor also supplies upwards of 70 country clubs and racket clubs in the Tri-State area it serves and also boasts high-profile hotels among its list of customers, including the Warwick Hotel and the Paramount Hotel as well as Trump Towers. With a fleet of delivery trucks, Main Street Wholesale Meats’ distribution radius is about 100 miles from its Farmingdale processing facility.
And orders from foodservice customers come in at all hours, Lee says, some as early as 3 a.m. for delivery that same morning. “We don’t really have a cutoff. We’re doing everything essentially on the fly,” not unlike many of the restaurants the company serves, where customers’ meals are created to order. Order pickers, therefore, come in at 3 a.m. to ensure delivery trucks are on the road first thing in the morning.
Untangling the Web
The decision to commit to web-based sales and launch The Steak Source was due in large part to peer pressure, according to Lee.
“To be honest it was more of an outgrowth of conversations with a lot of my friends who’ve been telling me for years, ‘your steaks are amazing, you really should be selling them on the internet,’” which he always agreed was a good strategy, but the rapidly increasing pace of the daily business made the venture seem impossible.
Now that the online business has been launched, the goal is not to spike sales as much as it is to increase the company’s presence and increase exposure for its wholesale business in the future.
“For the website to even increase our sales by 5 percent would be a huge success,” Lee says.
With Brandon Hittner spearheading the marketing and promotion of the website, Lee says the conversations going on between him and Hittner focus on topics such as search engine optimization, unique visitors and pays per click.
“If my grandfather heard some of the conversations Brandon and I are having today, he’d surely think we weren’t talking about the meat business.”
To read the complete story, “Main Street Momentum,” see the March issue of MEAT+POULTRY, available digitally March 9 at www.meatpoultry.com.